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Remote Sensing Applications Center

Remote Sensing Applications Center
2222 W. 2300 South
Salt Lake City, UT
84119 - 2020
voice: (801) 975-3750
fax: (801) 975-3478
RSAC Website

 United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.USDA logo which links to the department's national site.Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

USGS Center
for EROS

47914 252nd Street
Sioux Falls, SD
57198 - 0001
605-594-6589 fax
EROS Website

Learn more about BAERFrequently Asked Questions

What is a BARC?
How is BARC data generated?
How should BARC data be used?
What is the BARC256 and how do I use it?
Who do I contact to get BARC data?

What is a BARC?

A Burned Area Reflectance Classification (BARC) is a satellite-derived data layer of post-fire vegetation condition. The BARC has four classes: high, moderate, low, and unburned. This product is used as an input to the soil burn severity map produced by the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) teams.

How is BARC data generated?

BARC data is made by comparing satellite near and mid infrared reflectance values. The logic behind the process is as follows:

  • Near infrared light is largely reflected by healthy green vegetation. That means that near infrared bands will be very high in areas of healthy green vegetation and low in areas where there is little vegetation.
  • Mid infrared light is largely reflected by rock and bare soil. That means that mid infrared band values will be very high in bare, rocky areas with little vegetation and low in areas of healthy green vegetation.
  • Imagery collected over a forest in a pre-fire condition will have very high near infrared band values and very low mid infrared band values. Imagery collected over a forest after a fire will have very low near infrared band values and very high mid infrared band values.

For more information see Spectral_Reflectivity_Overview.pdf

It is the relationship between these two bands that the BARC attempts to exploit. The best way to do this is to measure the relationship between these bands prior to the fire and then again post fire. The areas where the relationship between the two bands has changed the most are most likely to be severely burned. The areas where that relationship has changed little are likely to be unburned or very lightly burned. To determine this relationship, analysts perform a band ratio between the mid and near infrared bands. The result is a classification of burned areas.

How should BARC data be used?

In the immediate aftermath of a wildfire, a Forest Service Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team is dispatched to the site to prepare an emergency rehabilitation and restoration plan. They do this by making an initial assessment of soil burn severity and to estimate the likely future downstream impacts due to flooding, landslides, and soil erosion. One of the first tasks for this team is the creation of a soil burn severity map that highlights the areas of high, moderate, and low severity. This map then serves as a key component in the subsequent flood modeling and Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis. The BARC data is meant to be used as a main input into the development of the final soil burn severity map.

What is the BARC256 and how do I use it?

In addition to delivering the 4-class BARC data to field teams, RSAC also provides field users a continuous 256-class version of the BARC. This is called the BARC256. This data set provides users the ability to adjust the break points between reflectance classes. Analysts at RSAC will color code the BARC256 image using the same classification scheme used for the BARC4 data, but the BARC256 will not be recoded into 4 classes.

The color-coding on the BARC256 done by RSAC is meant to act as a starting point for field team members. Users can view the color scheme and adjust these break points as desired. This can easily be done in ArcMap. For step-by-step instructions on making break point adjustments, please refer to the document Editing BARC Data Layers substituting your data in place of the data listed in the exercise.

The data will also typically be sent as a square or rectangular subset that covers land outside the fire perimeter. This can easily be clipped to the fire perimeter of choice using ArcMap’s Spatial Analyst extension.

Who do I contact to get BARC data?

The Forest Service Remote Sensing Applications Center (RSAC) and the US Geological Survey Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) both provide satellite imagery and BARC data services to BAER teams responding to wildfire incidents. RSAC is responsible for imagery and BARC support requests for wildfires on Forest Service lands, while EROS is responsible imagery and BARC support on all Department of Interior lands. Imagery and BARC support is available on a cost reimbursable basis for wildfires occurring on Forest Service lands where a BAER team is not deployed, or for prescribed fires.

To order BARC data, please use the online request system and submit a request. If you have any trouble please contact Carl Albury (801-975-3351; for FS fires or Randy McKinley (605-594-2745; for DOI fires.

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