Remote sensing sensitivity to fire severity and fire recovery

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Abstract

The paper examines fundamental ways that geospatial data on fire severity and recovery are influenced by conditions of the remote sensing. Remote sensing sensitivities are spatial, temporal and radiometric in origin. Those discussed include spatial resolution, the sampling time of year, and time since fire. For standard reference, sensitivities are demonstrated with examples drawn from an archive of burn assessments based on one radiometric index, the differenced Normalized Burn Ratio. Resolution determines the aggregation of fire effects within a pixel (alpha variation), hence defining the detected ecological response, and controlling the ability to determine patchiness and spatial distribution of responses throughout a burn (beta variation). As resolution decreases, alpha variation increases, extracting beta variation from the complexity of the whole burn. Seasonal timing impacts the radiometric quality of data in terms of transmittance, sun angle, and potential for enhanced contrast between responses within burns. Remote sensing sensitivity can degrade during many fire seasons when snow, incomplete burning, hazy conditions, low sun angles, or extended drought are common. Time since fire (lag timing) most notably shapes severity detection through the first-order fire effects evident in survivorship and delayed mortality that emerge by the growth period after fire. The former effects appear overly severe at first, but diminish, as burned vegetation remains viable. Conversely, the latter signals vegetation that appears healthy at first, but is damaged by heat to the extent that it soon dies. Both responses can lead to either over- or under-estimating severity, respectively, depending on fire behavior and pre-fire composition unique to each burned area. Based on implications of such sensitivities, three sampling intervals for short-term burn severity are identified; rapid, initial, and extended assessment, sampled within ca. two weeks, two months, and depending on the ecotype, from three months to one year after fire, respectively. Jointly, remote sensing conditions and the way burns are studied yield different tendencies for data quality and information content that impact the objectives and hypotheses that can be studied. Such considerations can be commonly overlooked, but need to be incorporated especially in comparative studies, and to build long-term reference databases on fire severity and recovery.

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Remote sensing sensitivity to fire severity and fire recovery
ISBN 8496214524
Year Published 2005
Language English
Publisher Universidad de Zaragoza
Publisher location Zaragoza, Spain
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 11 p.
Larger Work Title Proceedings of the 5th International Workshop on Remote Sensing and GIS Applications to Forest Fire Management: Fire Effects Assessment
First page 29
Last page 39
Conference Title 5th International Workshop on Remote Sensing and GIS Applications to Forest Fire Management: Fire Effects Assessment
Conference Location Zaragoza, Spain
Conference Date June 16-18, 2005
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N