The composite burn index (CBI): field rating of burn severity
Document Type: Other
Author(s): Carl H. Key; Nate C. Benson
Publication Year: 2003

Cataloging Information

  • burn severity
  • CBI - composite burn index
  • fire severity
  • Landsat
  • remote sensing
  • vegetation strata
  • wildfire
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: August 28, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 3355


From the website...'The Composite Burn Index (CBI): Objectives to correlate remote sensing data with observed fire effects require definition of burn severity, and a sampling strategy that matches recorded field characteristics to sensor capabilities. The Composite Burn Index (CBI) is designed to define burn severity ecologically, and measure ground effects which collectively provide a signal detected at moderate resolution by the Landsat Thematic Mapper. Average conditions of the community are evaluated ocularly by vegetative strata within relatively large heterogeneous plots. Attributes are rated by criteria which correspond to identified burn levels along a gradient from unburned to extremely burned conditions. The criteria scale considers not only specific physical properties, but also the distribution of traits within plots. Attribute scores then are segregated hierarchically by strata and averaged into understory, overstory, and overall composite ratings. Sampling confirms variable burn responses by strata consistent with observations over the range of severity, suggesting the criteria and rating scale are appropriate. Ratings which incorporate all strata seem to improve the overall measure of severity, and emphasize the importance of considering a broad range of factors when summarizing burns. We suggest the CBI is transferable and a basis for studying or comparing burns across broad geographic regions. The strategy facilitates direct correlation of burn severity to radiometric response variables and may be used in modeling other environmental factors, such as fuel loading or erosion potential. At the same time, the methodology could be used in the absence of remote sensing data to describe and evaluate localized burn sites for a variety of purposes.'

Key, Carl H.; Benson, Nathan C. 2003. The composite burn index (CBI): field rating of burn severity. US Geological Survey Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center. U.S. Department of the Interior, Geological Survey, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center.