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Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Master's Report

Degree Name

Master of Science in Geophysics (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Advisor 1

Thomas Oommen

Committee Member 1

Luke J. Bowman

Committee Member 2

John S. Gierke


Wildfires pose a constant threat to the western United States causing economic, environmental, and human losses. Their severity and impacts can be lessened when they are monitored timely and efficiently, providing opportunities for early warning and strategic responses. Optical imagery is a common method of mapping wildfires but is hindered by cloud cover. Radar, on the other hand, passes through clouds. Therefore, Sentinel-1s radar imagery will be tested in cloudy settings and compared to optical imagery for characterizing active wildfires and post-fire burn areas. Radar uses long microwaves, which allow penetration of cloud cover, collecting data regardless of weather and time of day. Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellite images are compared to understand if radar can detect wildfires in a time-series analysis and if different backscatter values correspond to different burn severity levels. After using different mathematical indices and polarizations, Sentinel-1 successfully detected the fire extents and the backscatter changes of a wildfire. The positive results from the area calculation demonstrate that radar can be a reliable and efficient tool for mapping wildfires.