Remote Sens. 2011, 3(8), 1680-1690; doi:10.3390/rs3081680
Article

Timing Constraints on Remote Sensing of Wildland Fire Burned Area in the Southeastern US

1 ASRC Research and Technology Solutions (ARTS), Contractor to the US Geological Survey (USGS), Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, 47914 252nd Street, Sioux Falls, SD 57198, USA 2 Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy, 13093 Henry Beadel Dr., Tallahassee, FL 32312, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 29 June 2011; in revised form: 5 August 2011 / Accepted: 9 August 2011 / Published: 15 August 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Remote Sensing of Wildland Fires)
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Abstract: Remote sensing using Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) satellite imagery is increasingly used for mapping wildland fire burned area and burn severity, owing to its frequency of collection, relatively high resolution, and availability free of charge. However, rapid response of vegetation following fire and frequent cloud cover pose challenges to this approach in the southeastern US. We assessed these timing constraints by using a series of Landsat TM images to determine how rapidly the remotely sensed burn scar signature fades following prescribed burns in wet flatwoods and depression swamp community types in the Apalachicola National Forest, Florida, USA during 2006. We used both the Normalized Burn Ratio (NBR) of reflectance bands sensitive to vegetation and exposed soil cover, as well as the change in NBR from before to after fire (dNBR), to estimate burned area. We also determined the average and maximum amount of time following fire required to obtain a cloud-free image for burns in each month of the year, as well as the predicted effect of this time lag on percent accuracy of burn scar estimates. Using both NBR and dNBR, the detectable area decreased linearly 9% per month on average over the first four months following fire. Our findings suggest that the NBR and dNBR methods for monitoring burned area in common southeastern US vegetation community types are limited to an average of 78–90% accuracy among months of the year, with individual burns having values as low as 38%, if restricted to use of Landsat 5 TM imagery. However, the majority of burns can still be mapped at accuracies similar to those in other regions of the US, and access to additional sources of satellite imagery would improve overall accuracy.
Keywords: Apalachicola National Forest; burn severity; cloud cover; depression swamp; differenced normalized burn ratio; dNBR; NBR; normalized burn ratio; prescribed fire; wet flatwoods

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MDPI and ACS Style

Picotte, J.J.; Robertson, K. Timing Constraints on Remote Sensing of Wildland Fire Burned Area in the Southeastern US. Remote Sens. 2011, 3, 1680-1690.

AMA Style

Picotte JJ, Robertson K. Timing Constraints on Remote Sensing of Wildland Fire Burned Area in the Southeastern US. Remote Sensing. 2011; 3(8):1680-1690.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Picotte, Joshua J.; Robertson, Kevin. 2011. "Timing Constraints on Remote Sensing of Wildland Fire Burned Area in the Southeastern US." Remote Sens. 3, no. 8: 1680-1690.

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