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Remote Sensing Assessment of Forest Disturbance across Complex Mountainous Terrain: The Pattern and Severity of Impacts of Tropical Cyclone Yasi on Australian Rainforests

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Climate Sciences Department, Earth Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 1 Cyclotron Rd., MS 50-4037, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Tulane University, 6489 Saint Charles Av., New Orleans, LA 70118, USA
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Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, 2181 LeFrak Hall, College Park, MD 20742, USA
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Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS), University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33149, USA
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Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies (COAPS), Florida State University, 2035 E. Paul Dirac Dr., 200 RM Johnson Bldg., Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA
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Hurricane Research Division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 4301 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149, USA
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Wet Tropics Management Authority, 1st Floor, Cairns Corporative Tower, 15 Lake St., P.O. Box 2050, Cairns, QLD 4870, Australia
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CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences–EcoSciences Precinct, 41 Boggo Road, Dutton Park, QLD 4102, Australia
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Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2014, 6(6), 5633-5649; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs6065633
Received: 29 January 2014 / Revised: 3 June 2014 / Accepted: 4 June 2014 / Published: 17 June 2014
Topography affects the patterns of forest disturbance produced by tropical cyclones. It determines the degree of exposure of a surface and can alter wind characteristics. Whether multispectral remote sensing data can sense the effect of topography on disturbance is a question that deserves attention given the multi-scale spatial coverage of these data and the projected increase in intensity of the strongest cyclones. Here, multispectral satellite data, topographic maps and cyclone surface wind data were used to study the patterns of disturbance in an Australian rainforest with complex mountainous terrain produced by tropical cyclone Yasi (2011). The cyclone surface wind data (H*wind) was produced by the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (HRD/NOAA), and this was the first time that this data was produced for a cyclone outside of United States territory. A disturbance map was obtained by applying spectral mixture analyses on satellite data and presented a significant correlation with field-measured tree mortality. Our results showed that, consistent with cyclones in the southern hemisphere, multispectral data revealed that forest disturbance was higher on the left side of the cyclone track. The highest level of forest disturbance occurred in forests along the path of the cyclone track (±30°). Levels of forest disturbance decreased with decreasing slope and with an aspect facing off the track of the cyclone or away from the dominant surface winds. An increase in disturbance with surface elevation was also observed. However, areas affected by the same wind intensity presented increased levels of disturbance with increasing elevation suggesting that complex terrain interactions act to speed up wind at higher elevations. Yasi produced an important offset to Australia’s forest carbon sink in 2010. We concluded that multispectral data was sensitive to the main effects of complex topography on disturbance patterns. High resolution cyclone wind surface data are needed in order to quantify the effects of topographic accelerations on cyclone related forest disturbances. View Full-Text
Keywords: multispectral data; complex mountainous terrain; tropical rainforests; tropical cyclones; forest disturbance multispectral data; complex mountainous terrain; tropical rainforests; tropical cyclones; forest disturbance
MDPI and ACS Style

Negrón-Juárez, R.I.; Chambers, J.Q.; Hurtt, G.C.; Annane, B.; Cocke, S.; Powell, M.; Stott, M.; Goosem, S.; Metcalfe, D.J.; Saatchi, S.S. Remote Sensing Assessment of Forest Disturbance across Complex Mountainous Terrain: The Pattern and Severity of Impacts of Tropical Cyclone Yasi on Australian Rainforests. Remote Sens. 2014, 6, 5633-5649.

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