"We have entered a new era where we're definitely seeing higher fire activity," said
With busy fire seasons, scientists and fire managers are interested in how and why fire frequency, severity and duration changes over time. To help investigate these trends, the
The valuable burn severity data can inform fire management policies and improve the management of resources, said
Landsat is the longest running Earth-observing satellite program. The data record goes back more than 40 years, collected by a series of satellites that observe land cover at comparable resolution and with the quality necessary for long-term research. Currently Landsat satellites 7 and 8 are in operation.
The MTBS project team creates fire maps from Landsat imagery by analyzing the vegetation in the burned area. The project is a collaboration between RSAC and the USGS Earth Resource Observation and Science Center, or EROS, located in
"It's very important for us to maintain the continuity of having the spectral bands that have been there since day one, particularly the near infrared and short wave infrared bands," said Quayle.
The sensors aboard the Landsat satellites measure different spectral wavelengths, or bands, of light reflected or emitted from Earth surface features. Many of the bands are outside of the range of wavelengths that humans can see, including the near infrared and shortwave infrared wavelengths. Data from these two wavelength regions are used to assess burn severity. Healthy green vegetation reflects near infrared light strongly. Bare ground and soil are dark in the near-infrared, and bare burned areas tend to be relatively bright in the short-wave infrared. Using the data from both bands, researchers can establish how badly a fire has affected a forest, shrubland or other types of wildland vegetation.
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