Figuring out how well large swaths of plant life recuperate over time can be tough from the ground. New radar maps now reveal the patchwork of plant damage and regrowth in the wake of more than a decade of fires in Angeles National Forest and other areas near Los Angeles.
A NASA research study airplane geared up with radar instruments, known as UAVSAR, flew over Southern California multiple times from 2010 to 2020 to produce a detailed map of the terrain listed below. By sending microwave pulses towards the Earth’s surface and measuring the signals that recover, the instruments can identify modifications of a couple of millimeters in surface height. They’re likewise conscious wetness, says Yunling Lou, a radar engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The resulting maps can identify locations with trees and shrublike chapparal from bare earth.
Lou and her coworkers are developing a method to color-code the maps by year to track massive changes in plants and monitor the recovery of forests and shrubland after harmful wildfires. Areas with greenery show up as red in 2010, green in 2017 and blue in2020 When the three maps are laid atop each other, they narrate of loss and regrowth. The 2016 Fish Fire destroyed plants that was present in 2010 and didn’t grow back by 2017 or 2020, so it still appears red in a composite map. The area affected by the 2020 Bobcat Fire appears in yellow: Plant life existed in 2010 and 2017 (red and green integrate to make yellow) but not 2020.