CONTROL ID: 1488481

TITLE: ForWarn Forest Disturbance Change Detection System Provides a Weekly Snapshot of US Forest Conditions to Aid Forest Managers (Invited)

AUTHORS (FIRST NAME, LAST NAME): William W Walter Hargrove1, Joseph Spruce2, Jitendra Kumar3, Forrest M Hoffman3

INSTITUTIONS (ALL): 1. Eastern Forest Threat Center, USDA Forest Service, Asheville, NC, United States.
2. Computer Sciences Corporation, Supporting NASA Applied Science and Technology Project Office, Stennis Space Center, MS, United States.
3. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, United States.

ABSTRACT BODY: The Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center and Western Wildland Environmental Assessment Center of the USDA Forest Service have collaborated with NASA Stennis Space Center to develop ForWarn, a forest monitoring tool that uses MODIS satellite imagery to produce weekly snapshots of vegetation conditions across the lower 48 United States. Forest and natural resource managers can use ForWarn to rapidly detect, identify, and respond to unexpected changes in the nation’s forests caused by insects, diseases, wildfires, severe weather, or other natural or human-caused events. ForWarn detects most types of forest disturbances, including insects, disease, wildfires, frost and ice damage, tornadoes, hurricanes, blowdowns, harvest, urbanization, and landslides. It also detects drought, flood, and temperature effects, and shows early and delayed seasonal vegetation development. Operating continuously since January 2010, results show ForWarn to be a robust and highly capable tool for detecting changes in forest conditions.

To help forest and natural resource managers rapidly detect, identify, and respond to unexpected changes in the nation’s forests, ForWarn produces sets of national maps showing potential forest disturbances at 231 m resolution every 8 days, and posts the results to the web for examination. ForWarn compares current greenness with the “normal,” historically seen greenness that would be expected for healthy vegetation for a specific location and time of the year, and then identifies areas appearing less green than expected to provide a strategic national overview of potential forest disturbances that can be used to direct ground and aircraft efforts. In addition to forests, ForWarn also tracks potential disturbances in rangeland vegetation and agriculural crops.

ForWarn is the first national-scale system of its kind based on remote sensing developed specifically for forest disturbances. The ForWarn system had an official unveiling and rollout in March 2012, initiated by a joint NASA and USDA press release, and followed by a series of training webinars. Almost 60 early-adopter state and federal forest managers attended at least one of the ForWarn rollout webinars. The ForWarn home page has had 2,632 unique visitors since rollout in March 2012, with 39% returning visits. ForWarn was used to map tornado scars from the historic April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak, and detected timber damage within more than a dozen tornado tracks across northern Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. ForWarn is the result of an ongoing, substantive cooperation among four different government agencies: USDA, NASA, USGS, and DOE. Disturbance maps are available on the web through the ForWarn Change Assessment Viewer at

KEYWORDS: [4341] NATURAL HAZARDS / Early warning systems, [4315] NATURAL HAZARDS / Monitoring, forecasting, prediction, [0468] BIOGEOSCIENCES / Natural hazards, [0476] BIOGEOSCIENCES / Plant ecology.
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Additional Details

Previously Presented Material: 30% in Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing (PERS) 75(10): 1150–1156

Contact Details

CONTACT (NAME ONLY): William W Hargrove
CONTACT (E-MAIL ONLY): hnw at geobabble dot org