International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire

Remote sensing techniques to assess active fire characteristics and post-fire effects

Leigh B. Lentile* A D , Zachary A. Holden* A , Alistair M. S. Smith* A , Michael J. Falkowski A , Andrew T. Hudak B , Penelope Morgan A , Sarah A. Lewis B , Paul E. Gessler A and Nate C. Benson C

A Department of Forest Resources, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844-1133, USA.

B Rocky Mountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Moscow, ID 83843, USA.

C National Park Service, National Interagency Fire Center, 3833 S. Development Avenue, Boise, ID 83705-5354, USA.

D Corresponding author. Email:

International Journal of Wildland Fire 15(3) 319-345
Submitted: 16 October 2005  Accepted: 19 May 2006   Published: 5 September 2006


Space and airborne sensors have been used to map area burned, assess characteristics of active fires, and characterize post-fire ecological effects. Confusion about fire intensity, fire severity, burn severity, and related terms can result in the potential misuse of the inferred information by land managers and remote sensing practitioners who require unambiguous remote sensing products for fire management. The objective of the present paper is to provide a comprehensive review of current and potential remote sensing methods used to assess fire behavior and effects and ecological responses to fire. We clarify the terminology to facilitate development and interpretation of comprehensible and defensible remote sensing products, present the potential and limitations of a variety of approaches for remotely measuring active fires and their post-fire ecological effects, and discuss challenges and future directions of fire-related remote sensing research.

Additional keywords: burn severity; burned area; ecological change; fire atlas; fire intensity; fire perimeters; fire radiative power; fire severity; Normalized Burn Ratio; Normalized Difference Vegetation Index; radiative energy.


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