ForWarn II

Satellite-Based Change Recognition and Tracking

Coastal pocosins respond to hurricanes and fire


More information about this event

Disturbance Type(s): Fire , Flooding , Weather

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. The eye of Hurricane Irene passed directly over this area on August 27, 2011 with 85 mph winds creating a storm surge which introduced salt water into coastal forests and shrublands.

2011 was notable for another disturbance as well--the Pains Bay Fire in Dare County that burned 45,300 acres of the Dare Bombing Range and the FWS's Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (see for detailed maps and photographs of this event). As shown by ForWarn's MODIS history, many areas within this fire's perimeter recovered rapidly soon after the fire was contained on June 27. These coastal areas are prone to wildfire, particularly in the peaty, normally wet pocosins that lie not far above sea level.

ForWarn provides managers with the capacity to monitor both hurricane and wildfire effects in near real time, and with retrospective power. This broadened perspective provides insights regarding the cumulative effects of multiple disturbances, and long term change that may reflect fundamental shifts in disturbance regimes. Such long-term monitoring is critical here, as these environments are particularly sensitive to drought-associated wildfire and severe windstorms which individually or in combination could result in substantial change to the existing environment, as climate extremes may become more likely with climate change.


List of NC Hurricanes (Wikipedia)

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge 2008 Management Plan