Comparison of burn severity assessments using Differenced Normalized Burn Ratio and ground data

Allison E. Cocke, Peter Z. Fulé, Joseph E. Crouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

367 Scopus citations


Burn severity can be mapped using satellite data to detect changes in forest structure and moisture content caused by fires. The 2001 Leroux fire on the Coconino National Forest, Arizona, burned over 18 pre-existing permanent 0.1 ha plots. Plots were re-measured following the fire. Landsat 7 ETM+ imagery and the Differenced Normalized Burn Ratio (ΔNBR) were used to map the fire into four severity levels immediately following the fire (July 2001) and 1 year after the fire (June 2002). Ninety-two Composite Burn Index (CBI) plots were compared to the fire severity maps. Pre- and post-fire plot measurements were also analysed according to their imagery classification. Ground measurements demonstrated differences in forest structure. Areas that were classified as severely burned on the imagery were predominantly Pinus ponderosa stands. Tree density and basal area, snag density and fine fuel accumulation were associated with severity levels. Tree mortality was not greatest in severely burned areas, indicating that the ΔNBR is comprehensive in rating burn severity by incorporating multiple forest strata. While the ΔNBR was less accurate at mapping perimeters, the method was reliable for mapping severely burned areas that may need immediate or long-term post-fire recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-198
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005


  • Arizona
  • Mixed conifer forest
  • Ponderosa pine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology


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