Satellite-based detection and monitoring of fire and fire effects in the North American tundra

Document Type

Conference Paper/Presentation

Publication Date



Warming and modifications to climate has led an increase in fire occurrence in the tundra, a biome not known for broad-scale fire. The overarching question we are addressing is: If fire increases in landscapes where fire is neither currently nor historically of great importance, what impacts will this have on ecosystems and ecosystem services? Current satellite-based methods for mapping fire at northern latitudes are focused on algorithms tuned to forested landscapes rather than treeless tundra types. Therefore our current accounting of recent fire for the circumpolar arctic is incomplete. We will present three activities that have used remote sensing methods to better understand fire in this region. We have developed a semi-automated mapping methodology to detect potential fire areas. Second, we will review a study to assess temporal trends in spectral signatures of burned areas at the Noatak National Preserve in Alaska. The analysis showed the signature of burned areas deteriorates rapidly, and that common mapping methods were inferior to other spectral methods for mapping burned areas and assessing burn severity. We also review an analysis of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery to assess the temporal dynamics of fire-disturbed sites as detected in SAR and the variables driving this signature.

Publisher's Statement

© 2013 Arctic Institute of North America

Publication Title

Arctic Observing Summit 2013