California Flames and Oregon Plains: Fire Risk Maps and Air Quality Effects
Authors: Jessie Larson, Christina Welch, Daniel Desmond, Christopher Atkinson
Mentors/Advisors (affiliation): Dr. Kenton Ross (Science Systems and Application Inc., Langley Research Center)
Team Location: NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
Abstract: During the months of July and August 2012, the Western United States experienced extreme drought conditions and gusty winds. The high temperatures and low humidity caused severe thunderstorms throughout the region. These extreme weather conditions led to several wildfires in the states, including the Long Draw Fire in the Vale District of Oregon which burned more than 550,000 acres, and the Range Fire in the Ely District of Nevada which burned nearly 5,000 acres. These wildfires have caused significant irreversible damage to the region’s socioeconomic system and have greatly impacted the livelihoods of the surrounding communities. For this project, NASA Earth observations were used to map burn severity in parts of Oregon and Nevada impacted by the 2012 wildfire season. These maps were used to classify the effects of fires on the ecosystems by assessing the magnitude of ecological damage caused. To create these maps, Relative difference Normalized Burn Ratios (RdNBRs) were calculated from pre-and post-fire NBRs. The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) was derived from Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM) data to display a difference in the landscape’s vegetation cover. NASA Earth observations also were used in the analysis of the surface conditions contributing to the harsh drought by using Normalized Difference Moisture Indices (NDMI) for each study area to display a difference in soil moisture. Fire-risk assessment maps were created using Landsat 5 TM data in ArcGIS with five parameters to provide the South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership and the Oregon Department of Forestry with a more reliable and accurate tool to aid in fire prediction, prevention, and soil analysis techniques. Five parameters were included in the fire-risk map, including proximity to the wildland-urban interface, proximity to roads, slopes, fuel type, and soil type. These methodologies, together with ground-truth data, can assist project partners in determining the best use of their resources for monitoring and responding to wildfires, as well as mitigating the effects of the fires.
Transcript available here.