80 Utilizing NASA Earth Observations to Monitor Drought Severity in Texas for Wildfire Mitigation Support

Monday, 11 January 2016
Megan Elizabeth Buzanowicz, NASA/DEVELOP, Hampton, VA; and L. Lykens, Z. Richards, and K. Ross

The 2011 wildfire season was one of the most destructive wildfire seasons in Texas history. The combination of a wet 2010 growing season, which allowed vegetation to prosper, followed by an extremely dry year in 2011 provided the worst case scenario for wildfires. The purpose of this project was to expand upon a drought severity index (DSI) created during the summer 2013 Great Plains Agriculture project. A risk map of potential wildfire areas that contain dry fuels was also created; specifically, how dry the fuels are. To accomplish this, data that measure specific factors contributing to drought conditions and dry vegetation were acquired, including land surface temperature and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) instrument onboard the Aqua and Terra satellites, precipitation from the Multi-Sensor Precipitation Estimate (MPE), and soil moisture from the North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS). Data for these four factors were compiled through ArcGIS in order to assemble a risk map. The accuracy of the DSI was correlated to live fuel moisture data supplied by the Texas Forest Service (TFS). Methods and results produced for determining drought conditions were presented to the TFS for future use throughout the state; the benefit of which was a high-resolution drought index that can be easily constructed with little cost to the end-user.
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