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Individual Highlight

New high resolution infrared data aids in the monitoring of fine scale wildland fire effects

Photo of High resolution maps of burn severity, such as this one of Pennsylvania State Forest, New Jersey, are derived from data indicating the proportions of live and damaged foliage and char within the forest.  Low severity areas, as in the left portion of the photo, retain green foliage and have minimal charring, whereas areas of high severity have high levels of char. High resolution maps of burn severity, such as this one of Pennsylvania State Forest, New Jersey, are derived from data indicating the proportions of live and damaged foliage and char within the forest. Low severity areas, as in the left portion of the photo, retain green foliage and have minimal charring, whereas areas of high severity have high levels of char. Snapshot : Wildfires and prescribed fires in the northeastern U.S. are often too small to evaluate using satellite data in the public domain and are too large to adequately evaluate on the ground; but, monitoring these fires provides critical ecological and fire hazard reduction information. Now, the commercial satellite, Worldview3, can be used to generate high-resolution maps of burn severity in pitch pine forests, enabling fire scientists in the region to gather data not previously available.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Gallagher, MichaelSkowronski, Nicholas
Research Location : Penn State Forest, New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1263

Summary

Forest reflectance data in the infrared range is important for predicting burn severity, or the magnitude of ecological change, following wildland fires. U.S. Geologic Survey satellites have been primary collectors of this data, which is effective for capturing medium- to large-scale effects on large western fires. However, the spatial resolution of these data remain too coarse to describe burn severity across small fires or to predict fine scale effects, which are valuable for evaluating shifts in ecological function and effectiveness in mitigating fire risk around homes or cultural resources. In the northeastern U.S. forest types where there is a high amount of wildland-urban interface, and a desire to restore habitats using fire, the lack of data is problematic. In the spring of 2016, Forest Service scientists evaluated the use of data from the new, high-resolution Worldview3 satellite for generating fine-scale burn severity predictions at wild and prescribed fires in the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve. Worldview3 data was found to accurately produce higher resolution predictions than were previously available. Researchers are now able to conduct work that ties burn severity to hazard reduction and ecological effects, thus gaining insights valuable to fire managers and the advancement of fire science in the east.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • West Virginia University

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