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Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Karen Fernandes; Cathleen E. Jones; Yunling Lou
Publication Date: 2024

Many communities coexist with wildfires that lead to loss of lives, property, and ecosystem services. Remote sensing tools can aid disaster response and post-event assessment, offering fire agencies opportunities for additional surveillance with radar, an all-weather instrument that can image day or night. The Station (2009) and Bobcat (2020) Fires are the two largest fires in Los Angeles County history, each burning over 100,000 acres. These areas are imaged with NASA's Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar L-band instrument. We test whether polarimetric radar can detect fire scars, burn severity, and different fuel types through its sensitivity to different scattering mechanisms. Polarimetric SAR products are moved into geographic information system-friendly formats, and in lieu of available field measurements are analyzed alongside agency data showing fire perimeters, burn progression outlines, and soil burn severity. We find that the HV polarization returns and the primary scattering mechanism, quantified through the Cloude-Pottier decomposition, are the most sensitive parameters. Higher HV values pre-fire correspond well to areas of moderate and high soil burn severity, and the pattern of fire progression follows higher HV to some extent. Using an HV difference threshold of 1.5 dB, the Bobcat burn scar is identified at 0.70 accuracy when compared with the published fire perimeter. Alpha 1 Angle can also demonstrate sensitivity to soil burn severity pre- and post-fire, showing vegetation types with increased surface scattering post-fire, which can be used to map burn scars and track recovery by vegetation type.

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Citation: An, Karen; Jones, Cathleen E.; Lou, Yunling. 2024. Assessment of pre- and post-fire fuel availability for wildfire management based on L-band polarimetric SAR. Earth and Space Science 11(4):e2023EA002943.

Cataloging Information

  • Bobcat Fire
  • fire detection
  • fire perimeter
  • polarimetric SAR
  • SAR - synthetic aperture radar
  • Station Fire
  • vegetation recovery
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Record Maintained By: FRAMES Staff (
FRAMES Record Number: 69181