International Scientist and ForWarn Researchers Meet Over a Common Challenge
Miguel Ortega Huerta, a scientist with the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, is seeking to understand vegetation damage following Hurricane Jova—a powerful storm that struck Mexico’s western coast in October of 2011. These impacts can be difficult to discern from remote sensing in the tropical dry forests that surround his field station in Chamela (in the state of Jalisco). He recently visited the Eastern Threat Center in Asheville, North Carolina, to present passive remote sensing methods and results from his work during a consultation with ForWarn researchers and Steve Norman. “Hurricane impacts differ in many ways from smaller disturbances like tornadoes, ice storms, or fire. Like Dr. Ortega Huerta, the ForWarn team has struggled to understand similarly complex landscape-to-regional responses that follow powerful storms that have struck the United States,” says Norman. He explains, "Along with damaging winds, hurricanes bring rain that can alleviate drought. At the edges, they can bring dry winds that can whip up wildfires. These changes are particularly hard to detect in satellite-based images of both tropical dry and temperate forests because the hurricane season is usually at the end of the growing season when decline in vegetation growth is normal.” After his Asheville visit, Ortega Huerta presented his work and engaged in additional discussion with ForWarn partners at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Expertise and insights exchanged among researchers facing common challenges could ultimately help land managers better understand hurricane impacts and develop more effective monitoring and management plans.