Coastal forests and shrublands can be vulnerable to climate-associated disturbances such as the strong winds and storm surges associated with hurricanes. Because of its extension into the Atlantic, eastern North Carolina is especially vulnerable to such storms, having been hit by several hurricanes during the MODIS period of record (i.e., since 2000). In 2014, Hurricane Arthur struck causing relatively minor damage to forests compared to two earlier events, namely 2003's Hurricane Isabel and 2011's Hurricane Irene.
Since 2004, southwestern Colorado's Englemann spruce forests have experienced a severe outbreak of spruce beetles (Dendroctonus rufipennis). Such outbreaks occur episodically, multiple times per century (Anderson et al. 2010). Early research in northern Colorado linked a prior outbreak that occurred in the 1940s and 1950s to wind damaged trees that favored growth in the population of the spruce beetle.
The 2013 Rim Fire burned over a quarter million acres of California's Sierra Nevada, including a portion of the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park. It started in mid-August as an illegal campfire after an unusually dry winter and spring. A lower-than-average snowpack melted early, signaling that a hazardous fire season lay ahead. That early season dryness contributed to the below-average productivity in the foothills as shown on ForWarn's June departure map. Once ignited, dryer fuels and other weather conditions helped this fire spread rapidly.
ForWarn's MODIS satellite-based products go back to 2000, and this allows us to observe the effects of wildfire and recovery since early in the decade. In exceptional cases, areas can reburn and this provides us with long-term monitoring insights into how vegetation is affected by a return in frequent fire. A portion of Santa Fe National Forest near Los Alamos, NM is one such area that has been reburned by wildfire in recent years. Portions of the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire were reburned in 2011 by the Las Conchas Fire.
In September of 2011, the Pagami Creek Fire burned over 92,000 acres in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) of the Superior National Forest, Minnesota Much of this burned at high severity, as indicated on the October forest change image. This was the largest fire to occur in this area since the 1999 blowdown event. The less extreme forest change shown in yellow and orange across northern Wisconsin and Michigan is largely the result of a hard early frost that accelerated the end of the growing season.
In June, the Wallow Fire burned over half a million acres in east-central Arizona, much of it on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. A substantial portion of the burn area was of high severity, killing millions of trees outright. Looking south-southwest over the Escudilla Mountain Fire Lookout Tower (upper left), the effects of the high severity fire are clear. This observed severity is consistent with the ForWarn map from July (upper right, shown with 50 percent transparency) that provides an even broader landscape context at the northeastern corner of the burn.
Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge near the Georgia-Florida line burned in 2007 and again in 2011. This rapid recovery of fuels reflects the importance of sprouting vegetation. In the map sequence from the summer of 2011, this resilience is clear. By June 17, wildfire had spread northward through about half the Refuge as shown in red (left). By July 19 (center), fire had progressed north and a new fire became evident northwest of the Refuge.
The Pains Bay Fire was started by lightning on May 4, 2011 in the peaty soils of North Carolina’s coastal plain. By the end of June, the fire was contained, but the deep soils continued to smolder for weeks. The white line marks this 45,000 acre fire’s final perimeter. The center of the fire burned with low severity, allowing rapid recovery of herbs, ferns and sprouting woody species by August; yet an outer ring shows a longer lasting departure from prior years.