Fire and Ice: Understanding Pre-Fire Conditions in the Alaskan Tundra using Hyperspectral Imagery

Authors: Siobhan McTiernan*,
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Polar Regions, Paleoenvironmental Change
Keywords: Arctic, Alaska, Fire, Tundra, Polar, Climate, Permafrost, Carbon, Hyperspectral Imaging, Remote Sensing
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Estherwood, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

As a result of recent warming in the Arctic, number of wildfire disturbance events is likely increasing the within the circumpolar region where they were once not seen as common occurrences. The results of these fires releases large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere (from biofuel/thawed permafrost) which in turn contributes to the changing climate and thus causes a feedback loop to occur. While tundra wildfires may play an important role in arctic ecosystems, there is still much to learn about their characteristics and impact. In Alaska, on the Seaward Peninsula, at Quartz Creek (65° 26’ 08” N 164° 32’ 28” W), roughly 110 Km northeast of Nome, a roughly 24,000-acre fire occurred during the summer of 2015. The purpose of this study is to analyze this fire scar at Quartz Creek, Alaska by using Hyperspectral Imaging with Eo-1 Hyperion data to measure subtle differences in vegetation characteristics. The study analyzes vegetation index values for burned and unburned areas to identify indicative spectral signatures and indices that could be used to detect fire-susceptible, luscious, and plentiful vegetative areas before a fire occurs. By analyzing fuel type prior to fire occurrence and fire spread, we have developed a new Hyperspectral Fire Risk Index (HyFRI) specifically designed for tundra vegetation that can be applied to areas throughout Alaska, Canada, and Russia to predict where fire is likely to spread given the means of ignition and prevent large scale carbon release.

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