Applications of Earth Remote Sensing for Identifying Tornado and Severe Weather Damage

Wednesday, 16 December 2015: 11:05
2020 (Moscone West)
Jason Eric Burks1, Andrew Molthan1, Lori A. Schultz2, Kevin McGrath3, Jordan R Bell1, Tony Cole2 and Kelsey Angle4, (1)NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, United States, (2)University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL, United States, (3)Jacobs, Inc. / NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, United States, (4)National Weather Service - Des Moines, IA, Des Moines, IA, United States
In 2014, collaborations between the Short-term Prediction Research and Transition (SPoRT) Center at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, the National Weather Service (NWS), and the USGS led to the incorporation of Earth remote sensing imagery within the NOAA/NWS Damage Assessment Toolkit (DAT). The DAT is a smartphone, tablet, and web-based application that allows NWS meteorologists to acquire, quality control, and manage various storm damage indicators following a severe weather event, such as a tornado, occurrence of widespread damaging winds, or significant hail. Earth remote sensing supports the damage assessment process by providing a broad overview of how various acquired damage indicators relate to scarring visible from space, ranging from high spatial resolution commercial imagery (~1-4m) acquired via USGS and in collaboration with other federal and private sector partners, to moderate resolution imaging from NASA sensors (~15-30m) such as those aboard Landsat 7 and 8 and Terra’s ASTER, to lower resolution but routine imaging from NASA’s Terra and Aqua MODIS, or the Suomi-NPP VIIRS instrument. In several cases, the acquisition and delivery of imagery in the days after a severe weather event has proven helpful in confirming or in some cases adjusting the preliminary damage track acquired during a ground survey. For example, limited road networks and access to private property may make it difficult to observe the entire length of a tornado track, while satellite imagery can fill in observation gaps to complete a more detailed damage track assessment. This presentation will highlight successful applications of Earth remote sensing for the improvement of damage surveys, discuss remaining challenges, and provide direction on future efforts that will improve the delivery of remote sensing data and use through new automation processes and training opportunities.