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Retrospective analysis of two Northern California wild-land fires via lands at five satellite imagery and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI)
Wild-land fires are a dynamic and destructive force in natural ecosystems. In recent decades, fire disturbances have increased concerns and awareness over significant economic loss and landscape change. The focus of this research allowed for the utilization of Landsat 5 imagery, analysis software, and ground based methods to study two northern California wild-land fires: Butte Humboldt Complex (BHC) and Butte Lightning Complex (BLC) of 2008. Multi-temporal and NDVI satellite imagery were used to visually assess levels of landscape change, under two temporal scales. Visual interpretation indicated noticeable levels of landscape change and relevant insight into the magnitude and impact of both wild-land fires. Satellite NDVI, local temperature, and precipitation time-based (1998-2010) data were incorporated to contrast pre- and post-wild-land fire vegetation response and recovery. NDVI trends may have been influenced by low precipitation, substrate flammability, and vegetation accumulation. Statistical analysis using Coefficient of Determination R2 comparison of satellite to ground based NDVI, resulted in weak linear correlations for BHC (R2 = 0.0859) and Richardson Springs (R2 = 0.3555), in contrast to a slightly negative correlation for BLC (R2 = 0.001). Normalized Burn Ratio (NBR) and delta NBR data allowed for quantitative analysis of burn severity levels. Delta NBR results indicated unburned, low severity, and low re-growth for BHC “burned center” subplots. In contrast, delta NBR values for BLC “burned center” subplots indicated low and mid to high burn severity levels. Examination pre- and post-wild-land fire vegetation demonstrated potential for wildland fires and associated influences to be detected by way of remote sensing technology.