The Dolan Fire of Central Coastal California: Burn Severity Estimates from Remote Sensing and Associations with Environmental Factors




Oseghae, Iyare
Bhaganagar, Kiran
Mestas-Nuñez, Alberto M.

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In 2020, wildfires scarred over 4,000,000 hectares in the western United States, devastating urban populations and ecosystems alike. The significant impact that wildfires have on plants, animals, and human environments makes wildfire adaptation, management, and mitigation strategies a critical task. This study uses satellite imagery from Landsat to calculate burn severity and map the fire progression for the Dolan Fire of central Coastal California which occurred in August 2020. Several environmental factors, such as temperature, humidity, fuel type, topography, surface conditions, and wind velocity, are known to affect wildfire spread and burn severity. The aim of this study is the investigation of the relationship between these environmental factors, estimates of burn severity, and fire spread patterns. Burn severity is calculated and classified using the Difference in Normalized Burn Ratio (dNBR) before being displayed as a time series of maps. The Dolan Fire had a moderate severity burn with an average dNBR of 0.292. The ignition site location, when paired with the patterns of fire spread, is consistent with wind speed and direction data, suggesting fire movement to the southeast of the fire ignition site. Patterns of increased burn severity are compared with both topography (slope and aspect) and fuel type. Locations that were found to be more susceptible to high burn severity featured Long Needle Timber Litter and Mature Timber fuels, intermediate slope angles between 15 and 35°, and north- and east-facing slopes. This study has implications for the future predictive modeling of wildfires that may serve to develop wildfire mitigation strategies, manage climate change impacts, and protect human lives.



burn severity, wildfire, fire progression, fuel model, California wildfires


Remote Sensing 16 (10): 1693 (2024)


Earth and Planetary Sciences
Mechanical Engineering