While the 138,000-acre Silver Fire still smoldered, forest restoration specialists were on the job.
They analyzed maps created using Landsat satellite data to determine where the burn destroyed vegetation and exposed soil – and where to focus emergency restoration efforts.
“The map looked like a big red blob,” said Penny Luehring, the U.S. Forest Service’s Burned Area Emergency Response and watershed improvement program leader, based in Albuquerque, N.M.
Red means high-severity fire, she explained – and the red areas were concentrated in a watershed drainage that fed communities west of Las Cruces, N.M. So crews got to work. The Burned Area Emergency Response, or BAER, teams are designed to go in as soon as the flames die down to help protect reservoirs, watersheds and infrastructure from post-fire floods and erosion. And Landsat satellites, built by NASA and operated by the U.S. Geological Survey, help direct the crews to those forest areas needing attention.
As a wildfire starts to die down, fire managers like Luehring can contact the Forest Service’s Remote Sensing Applications Center in Salt Lake City to request maps that identify the high, moderate and low severity burns. When that call comes in, remote sensing specialist Carl Albury finds satellite imagery of the burned forest both pre- and post-fire.
In Landsat images, he looks at two of the 11 spectral bands – the near-infrared band and a short-wave infrared band.
“The near infrared reflects well from healthy vegetation, and the short-wave infrared bands reflect well from exposed ground,” Albury said. “By comparing the normalized ratio of the near- and shortwave-infrared bands in the pre-fire image to the post-fire image, we can estimate the burn severity.”
The near-infrared wavelength bounces off of healthy plant cells, and so sends back a strong signal to the Landsat detector that isn’t present over burned areas, explained Jeff Masek, Landsat program scientist with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. But the shortwave infrared band – added to Landsat satellites starting with Landsat 4 – has a distinct spectral signature for burned areas.
“The char will show up very clearly in the shortwave,” Masek said.
Albury takes a ratio of the two spectral bands, both before and after a fire. Comparing those ratios, he creates a rough map of fire severity, called the Burned Area Reflectance Classification, or BARC. The BAER teams calibrate or adjust the maps based on on-the-ground observations, and then use them to plan time-sensitive restoration projects.
“Without the BARC product the only way for them to assess the fire is on foot or by helicopter,” Albury said, noting that doing so is often infeasible for large fires on remote terrain. “It gives them a sense for how much they need to do, and where they need to do it.”
While he also employs remote sensing data from other satellites, Landsat is the satellite of choice, Albury said. That’s because of the coverage of its spectral bands as well as the free availability of the images – he can sort through to find cloud-free views of that forest at a similar time in the growing season for the pre-fire comparison. And with Landsat 8 online this summer, the new images don’t have the gaps present in Landsat 7 imagery. Plus, having two satellites orbiting halves the wait time for post-fire images.
The Latest on: Landsat
- Watch: Pine Island glacier readies for another crack on February 16, 2018 at 8:17 pm
Professor Stef Lhermitte published a photo on Twitter based on NASA's Landsat satellite imagery. It shows new cracks "very similar" to those massive "calve events". The animation, obtained with ESA's Sentinel 1 satellite photos, shows the evolution of the ... […]
- Administration Plan Would Cut USGS Budget by More Than 20% on February 16, 2018 at 8:02 pm
The budget also supports a planned FY 2021 launch of the Landsat 9 Earth-observing satellite to replace the aging Landsat 7 and maintain the current Landsat program’s 8-day repeat coverage of everywhere on Earth. In addition, continued funding is ... […]
- Glaciers Near the Equator? Indonesia Has Several, but They're in Rapid Retreat on February 16, 2018 at 10:13 am
(MORE: The Polar Vortex Has Split; Here's What That Means For You) The first image, acquired Nov. 3, 1988, was captured by the Thematic Mapper on Landsat 5. The second image, captured by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite ... […]
- Ball Aerospace Delivers Flight Cryocooler Early for NASA's Landsat Mission on February 14, 2018 at 4:00 am
BOULDER, Colo., Feb. 14, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Ball Aerospace delivered the TIRS-2 Flight Cryocooler for the Landsat 9 TIRS-2 instrument ahead of schedule to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). Achieving this milestone early will allow GSFC ... […]
- President Proposes $860 Million USGS Budget for FY2019 on February 12, 2018 at 10:23 am
The 2019 budget provides the following: Development of the Landsat 9 ground station, keeping pace with NASA satellite development in order to meet a fiscal year 2021 launch of Landsat 9 Monitoring of the National Water Census, which provides daily water ... […]
- Landsat 8 Marks Five Years in Orbit on February 11, 2018 at 7:06 pm
In its five years in space, the Landsat 8 Earth-observing satellite has racked up some impressive statistics: 26,500 orbits around the planet, 1.1 million "scenes" captured, a motherlode of images that represents 16 percent of all the observations in the ... […]
- In Photos: South Korea from Above on February 9, 2018 at 6:02 am
This image shows a residential area in the Gujwa-eup district of Jeju. Using data from four separate periods stretching from 1989 to 1991, taken by the Landsat-4 and Landsat-5 satellites, scientists created this view of the central section of the Korean ... […]
- The islands of yesterday and tomorrow on February 7, 2018 at 8:07 am
That's the location of two islands sitting side-by-side: Big Diomede and Little Diomede. Here's a lovely image of them taken by the phenomenal Landsat 8 satellite in June 2017: Big Diomede is about 8 kilometers long, and Little Diomede just under half that ... […]
- General Dynamics Awarded New Landsat Contract by U.S. Geological Survey on July 27, 2017 at 12:17 pm
The contract establishes General Dynamics Mission Systems as a prime contractor for space mission operations centers. SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., July 27, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- General Dynamics Mission Systems received a contract from the U.S. Geological Survey ... […]
- First images from newest Landsat on April 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm
Landsat satellites have provided a near-continuous record of Earth’s surface seen from space for over 40 years. Newest Landsat launched February 11. NASA’s new Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) satellite acquired its first images on March 18, 2013. […]
via Google News and Bing News