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Article << Previous     |         Contents Vol 22(5)

Evaluating spectral indices and spectral mixture analysis for assessing fire severity, combustion completeness and carbon emissions

Sander Veraverbeke A B and Simon J. Hook A

A Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA), California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA.
B Corresponding author. Email: sander.s.veraverbeke@jpl.nasa.gov

International Journal of Wildland Fire 22(5) 707-720 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF12168
Submitted: 6 October 2012  Accepted: 16 December 2012   Published: 18 March 2013


 
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Abstract

We used a Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) image from the 2011 Wallow fire in Arizona, USA, in combination with field data to assess different methods for determining fire severity. These include the normalised burn ratio (NBR), the differenced NBR (dNBR), the relative dNBR (RdNBR) and the burned fraction (BF) estimated by spectral mixture analysis (SMA). The Geo Composite Burn Index (GeoCBI) and vegetation mortality data were used as ground truth. Of all the remotely sensed measures evaluated the dNBR had the best performance (GeoCBI–dNBR R2 = 0.84), which supports the operational use of the dNBR for post-fire management. Of the other remotely sensed measures, the SMA-derived BF also had moderately high correlations with the GeoCBI (R2 = 0.66). Both approaches demonstrated their usefulness for refining modelled CC values, however, the SMA approach has the advantage of providing transferable quantitative estimates without the need for calibration with field data. The carbon emission estimates that included fire severity were more than 50% lower than the estimate derived from modelling alone. These results suggest that for certain fire types, especially mixed-severity fires, current emission estimates are significantly overestimated, which will affect global carbon emission estimates from wildfires.

Additional keywords: burn severity, burning efficiency, carbon cycle, normalised burn ratio (NBR), wildfire emission.


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