Improving Hurricane Damage Assessments with New Satellite Technology and Outreach
Damage assessments are crucial in the immediate wake of extreme hurricanes such as Hurricane Michael, which struck the southeastern U.S. in late 2018. The destruction caused by such severe storms typically restricts accessibility, and this, along with the huge scale of the impacted area, makes accurate and rapid assessments from ground observations impossible. Newly available high-frequency, high-resolution satellite technology is a game changer for rapid forest change assessment and monitoring. The European Space Agency's Sentinel 2 twin satellites provide 10-meter observations at five-day intervals that can result in remarkably early and efficient damage insights. With the help of cloud computing and some technical expertise, these high-resolution forest maps can identify damage in hardwood and conifer areas. USDA Forest Service scientists at the agency's Southern Research Station worked with state and federal forestry agencies to develop repeated assessments after Hurricane Michael and refine on the ground understanding of the damages. This collaborative effort improves the way storm damage can be quantified. Using a similar approach, this technology can also document forest recovery and post-storm salvage logging and the effects of multiple disturbances as part of a systematic landscape monitoring approach.
Forest Service Partners