Volume 13, Issue 1 - spring 2020
Improving hurricane damage assessment with new satellite technology and outreach
Damage assessments are crucial in the wake of hurricanes such as Hurricane Michael, which struck the southeastern US in late 2018. But the destruction caused by such severe storms typically restricts accessibility, and given the huge scale of the impacted area, this makes accurate and rapid assessments from ground observations impossible. Newly available high-frequency, high-resolution satellite technology is a game changer for rapid forest change assessment and monitoring. The European Space Agency’s Sentinel 2 satellites provide observations that result in early and efficient damage insights. These data can, with the help of cloud computing and some technical expertise, map damage to hardwood and conifer areas. Working with state and federal forestry agencies, Threat Center scientists developed repeated assessments after Hurricane Michael to refine our understanding of the damages. This collaborative effort helps improve the way storm damage can be assessed. This technology can help document forest recovery and post-storm salvage logging and the effects of multiple disturbances as part of a systematic landscape monitoring approach. Learn more about this project and view example maps.
Pictured: Damage from Hurricane Michael assessed at high resolution—purple and red areas were affected most. Damage varied across this timber production landscape, depending on forest age and structure. The background air photo shows conditions in summer of 2017; overlaid color relates vegetation change from winter 2018 to 2019. Image prepared by Bill Christie, USDA Forest Service.