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The detection and mapping of Alaskan wildfires using a spaceborne imaging radar system

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Abstract. The study presented here focuses on using a spaceborne imaging radar, ERS-1, for mapping and estimating areal extent of fires which occurred in the interior region of Alaska. Fire scars are typically 3 to 6 dB brighter than adjacent unburned forests in the ERS-1 imagery. The enhanced backscatter from burned areas was found to be a result of high soil moisture and exposed rough ground surfaces. Fire scars from 1979 to 1992 are viewed in seasonal ERS-1 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data obtained from 1991 to 1994. Three circumstances which influence the detectability of fire scars in the ERS-1 imagery are identified and examined; seasonality of fire scar appearances, fires occurring in mountainous regions, and fires occurring in wetland areas. Area estimates of the burned regions in the ERS-1 imagery are calculated through the use of a Geographic Information System (GIS) database. The results of this analysis are compared to fire records maintained by the Alaska Fire Service (AFS) and to estimates obtained through a similar study using the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) sensor.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 20, 1997

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