Integrated Mapping of Drought-Impacted Areas in the Sierra-Nevada Foothills Region of California Using Landsat Imagery

Monday, 15 December 2014
Mahesh Rao, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA, United States
Drought is a natural disaster with serious implications to environmental, social and economic well-being at local, regional and global scales. In its third year, California’s drought condition has seriously impacted not just the agricultural sector, but also the natural resources sector including forestry, wildlife, and fisheries. As of July 15, 2014, the National Weather Service drought monitor shows 81% of California in the category of extreme drought. As future predictions of drought and fire severity become more real in California, there is an increased awareness to pursue innovative and cost-effective solutions that are based on silvicultural treatments and controlled burns to improve forest health and reduce the risk of high-severity wildfires. The main goal of this study is to develop a GIS map of the drought-impacted region of northern and central California using remote sensing data. Specifically, based on a geospatial database for the study region, Landsat imagery in conjunction with field and ancillary data will be analyzed using a combination of supervised and unsupervised classification techniques in addition to spectral indices such as the Modified Perpendicular Drought Index (MPDI). This spectral index basically scales the line perpendicular to the soil line defined in the Red-NIR feature space in conjunction with added information about vegetative fraction derived using NDVI. The image processing will be conducted for two time periods (2001 and 2014) to characterize the severity of the drought. In addition to field data, data collected by state agencies including calforests.org will be used in the classification and accuracy assessment procedures. Visual assessment using high-resolution imagery such as NAIP will be used to further refine the spatial maps. The drought severity maps produced will greatly facilitate site-specific planning efforts aimed at implementing resource management decisions.