Researchers create new technique to reveal details of forest fire recovery

forest fire recovery


Do you know someone who’s so caught up in the details of a problem that they “can’t see the forest for the trees?” Scientists seeking to understand how forests recover from wildfires sometimes have the opposite problem. Conventional satellite systems that survey vast tracts of land burned by forest fires provide useful, general information, but can gloss over important details and lead scientists to conclude that a forest has recovered when it’s still in the early stages of recovery.

According to a team of ecologists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, a new technique using a combination of much higher-resolution remote sensing methods provides a more accurate and more detailed picture of what’s happening on the ground. In a paper that will appear in the June 2018 issue of the journal Remote Sensing of Environment, they describe how they used much higher-resolution satellite imagery and aerial measurements collected by NASA to characterize a forested area damaged by a 2012 wildfire that had spread onto the Laboratory’s grounds.

“Being able to quantify the relationship between forest recovery and burn severity is critical information for us to understand both forest dynamics and carbon sequestration,” said Ran Meng, a postdoctoral research associate in Brookhaven Lab’s Terrestrial Ecosystem Science & Technology (TEST) research group and lead author on the paper. “This work shows that by using more advanced remote sensing measurements with very high-resolution spectral imaging and LiDAR-a technique that allows us to measure of the forest’s 3-D physical structure-we can characterize fire effects and monitor post-fire recovery more accurately,” he said.

Alistair Rogers, leader of the TEST group added, “This work is a nice example of the value of high resolution, multi-sensor, remote sensing. The novel combination of data from these sensors enabled deeper understanding of a challenging ecological question and provides a new tool for forest management.”

Ground level, satellite data mismatch

Meng noted the need for improved remote measurements as a graduate student prior to coming to Brookhaven. While tracking vegetation recovery after wildfires in the mountain west and California, his observations on the ground didn’t match what the conventional, moderate resolution satellite measurements (such as those obtained by Landsat) were showing.

“Doing field studies, we measure tree parameters and features, and we can see if the canopy — the part of the ecosystem formed by the tops of the trees — is healthy, or if there is just regrowth at the ground level,” Meng said.

The scientists need to be able to distinguish this “understory” growth (for example, shrubs and grasses) from the canopy to determine if the forest has actually recovered to its pre-fire state.

“In terms of managing forests and understanding how much carbon is stored in these systems and how they support biodiversity and change over time, the canopy trees are what’s important,” explained Shawn Serbin, Meng’s supervisor at Brookhaven.

But traditional satellite imaging, which has been used to study big forest fires since the 1970s, can’t distinguish the canopy from the understory, Serbin noted. It produces images with much larger pixel sizes-squares with sides measuring about 30 meters or more-and only measures in a few “channels,” or reflected colors/wavelengths of light, with no sense of depth.

“So, if a fire sweeps through and then a bunch of herbaceous plants that are very green spring up in the newly exposed understory, a traditional satellite system would just see all of that at once — a general pattern of greenness — and confuse that as showing that ‘the vegetation has recovered,’ even when there are still fully burned trees on the ground,” Serbin said.

“Clearly, we need a way to understand in more detail how the forest recovers in terms of the canopy trees without having to conduct massive ground studies, which would be way too time — and labor-intensive,” he added — or as Meng put it, “mission impossible.”

A fortuitous opportunity

Fortunately, remote sensing technologies have come a long way since the 1970s, particularly over the past 10 years. And thanks to an ongoing collaboration with scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the availability of fine-resolution commercial satellite imagery, Meng and Serbin got a chance to try out these updated technologies and compare the results with ground observations.

Their testbed was a swath of forest in their own backyard that had been damaged when a wildfire in the Long Island Pine Barrens spread onto an undeveloped portion of Brookhaven Lab’s property in April 2012. Meng first used fine-resolution commercial imagery purchased by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), collected before and after the fire, to create a high-resolution map of burn severity (published previously). Then, he used this map to superimpose detailed measurements of forest characteristics that he extracted from remote sensing imagery collected by the NASA Goddard team in 2015. By comparing the high-resolution remote data with their own on-the-ground observations, Meng and Serbin could test whether the new technologies were conveying an accurate representation of how the trees were recovering in the different areas of burn severity.

forest fire researchers


“This was an opportunity to study forest dynamics in an unprecedented way,” Serbin said.

The airborne NASA instruments included cameras for very high-resolution digital photography (with pixels measuring one square meter instead of the 30 x 30-meter pixels used by conventional satellites); “hyperspectral” imaging (to pick up light in ~100 colors); thermal infrared imaging (for measuring heat); and LiDAR (which operates like a radar gun speed detector-shooting out beams of near-infrared light and measuring how long they take to bounce back to measure distance, or in this case, the depth into the forest).

satellite image forest fire damage


Because these instruments make their measurements simultaneously, the scientists can track exactly what color (even subtle variations of green) is reflected back, and from what depth in the forest — all at one-meter resolution.

“This can give us much more information and reduce our uncertainties for understanding the forest dynamics and consequences of fire,” Meng said.

The high-resolution and 3-D structural data were able to differentiate the canopy from the understory and gave the scientists an accurate representation of forest recovery in relation to burn severity that matched what they were seeing on the ground.

Instead of a recovery rate that increased with increasing burn severity, as the conventional satellite data — obscured by new understory growth — had suggested, the high-resolution data showed an increasing recovery rate for canopy trees up to a certain threshold.

“Before they reach a certain threshold of damage, trees can recover — create new branches. But after they reach this critical point they get killed and can’t recover. They have to start from scratch and it will take a long time,” said Meng. Meanwhile, new understory species taking advantage of the sunlight able to reach the ground through the depleted canopy, rapidly take their place.

Seeing species differences remotely

The scientists were even able to pick out quantitative differences in recovery rates among different species in the canopy.

satellite image forest fire recovery


“Here at the Lab, we have a simple example of pine vs. oak trees. Pine has a conical shape with thin, closely packed, dark green needles. Oak has a rounder structure with broad lighter-colored leaves. They also have different chemistry and water content. All of that changes the way they reflect light, so they each have a unique ‘spectral signature’ that we can pick out with these new technologies,” Serbin said.

The scientists used machine learning techniques to train computers to recognize the unique spectral and structural features so they could differentiate among these and other species.

“Using a traditional satellite imaging system, it would be impossible to tell these species apart. But now, for the first time, we can use our new technology to quantify these responses over large areas and over a longer time than ever before,” Meng said.

Applying the knowledge

Beyond providing insight into the health of the Long Island Pine Barrens, the method should work to improve remote assessments of fire damage and recovery in different types of forests, and particularly in remote areas where field studies are impractical.

“We think this method should apply across the world. We think it’s adaptable, and the data is publicly available, so we could scale this up,” Serbin said.

Understanding the details of forest dynamics would help inform forest management strategies, such as when and where to stage a controlled burn to limit the buildup of fuel for wildfires, or to identify where new trees — and which types — should be planted to maintain biodiversity. It would also provide input for models designed to predict how forest ecosystems will respond to other types of challenge, such as drought or climate change.

“The people tasked with projecting how ecosystems are going to respond to change in the future need very detailed information on the dynamics of forests and vegetation for their models,” Serbin said. “We’ve learned that the structure of vegetation is highly related to how much carbon can be stored in those ecosystems, and that ecosystems with higher biodiversity store more carbon. So the ability to assess biodiversity and forest structure will be very important to building those models.”


Ran Meng et al. Using high spatial resolution satellite imagery to map forest burn severity across spatial scales in a Pine Barrens ecosystem, Remote Sensing of Environment (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2017.01.016

Ran Meng et al. Measuring short-term post-fire forest recovery across a burn severity gradient in a mixed pine-oak forest using multi-sensor remote sensing techniques, Remote Sensing of Environment (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2018.03.019

Karen Mcnulty Walsh serves as Principal Media & Communications Specialist of Brookhaven National Laboratory.

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Police release investigation details of boy killed while trapped in van

Cincinnati police revealed officers never left their car to search for 16-year-old Kyle Plush, who suffocated in his van after being trapped under a seat a month ago.

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Gov’t Forcing Media to Suppress Bombshell Skripal Case Details, Effectively Changing the Story


Washington, D.C. – There are no coincidences when it comes to deep politics. Regardless of the propaganda operations undertaken to mask the truth, there is always much more taking place than the general public is allowed to see. Take for instance the case of poisoned Russian double agent Col Sergei Skripal.

The western public has been led by the mass media to believe that Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by Russia as payback for his betrayal of Russia. However, a close look at the facts brings about some astounding conclusions. The poisoning was likely carried out by western actors operating with an intention to either scare or kill Skripal after it was revealed that his handler was one Pablo Miller, an MI6 agent the UK claims is a diplomat, and who was also a colleague in both MI6 and Orbis Intelligence of Trump dossier author, Christopher Steele.

It is important to remember that Orbis Intelligence is Christopher Steele’s company that was paid by the Clinton campaign to create a dossier of opposition research that was used as a basis for FISA warrants on the Trump campaign. In fact, as the New Yorker reported, Steele’s position itself within MI6 likely involved direct contact with Skripal:

“Steele had spent more than twenty years in M.I.6, most of it focusing on Russia. For three years, in the nineties, he spied in Moscow under diplomatic cover. Between 2006 and 2009, he ran the service’s Russia desk, at its headquarters, in London. He was fluent in Russian and widely considered to be an expert on the country.”

Moon of Alabama reported that “Steele was an MI6 undercover agent in Moscow around the time when Skripal was recruited and handed over Russian secrets to the MI6. He also ran the MI6 Russia desk so anything about Skripal will have passed through him. It is very likely that they personally knew each other. Pablo Miller, who worked for Steele’s private company, lived in the same town as Skripal and they seem to have been friends since Miller had recruited him.

Orbis Business Intelligence was co-founded by Steele and would employ Skripal’s handler, Pablo Miller, as soon as he left MI6.

Further indicative of something likely suspicious afoot, a D Notice, which effectively bans British media outlets and journalists from mentioning Pablo Miller, was put in place on the day of the Salisbury chemical attack.

Former British diplomat Craig Murray posted a screenshot of a tweet that he called a “vital confirmation from Channel 4 News (serial rebel Alex Thomson) of the D Notice in place on mention of Pablo Miller.”


Additionally, although declining to name him, almost certainly due to the D Notice, the British Telegraph reported on Pablo Miller doing “consultancy work” for Steele’s Orbis:

A security consultant who has worked for the company that compiled the controversial dossier on Donald Trump was close to the Russian double agent poisoned last weekend, it has been claimed.

The consultant, who The Telegraph is declining to identify, lived close to Col Skripal and is understood to have known him for some time.

The Telegraph understands that Col Skripal moved to Salisbury in 2010 in a spy swap and became close to a security consultant employed by Christopher Steele, who compiled the Trump dossier.

The British security consultant, according to a LinkedIn social network account that was removed from the internet in the past few days, is also based in Salisbury.

On the same LinkedIn account, the man listed consultancy work with Orbis Business Intelligence, according to reports.

Clearly, Miller or someone else attempted to cover up the connection to Steele by editing his LinkedIn profile. The man that the Telegraph declined to identify was later named by Meduza as Pablo Miller:

Pablo Miller, who at the time was posing as Antonio Alvarez de Hidalgo and working in Britain’s embassy in Tallinn. Russia’s Federal Security Service says Miller was actually an undercover MI6 agent tasked with recruiting Russians.

Although Orbis issued a weak denial of Skripal’s involvement in producing the dossier, Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, noted that it was “extremely probable” that Skripal’s work on the Trump/Russia dossier was related to the his poisoning:

Back then I did not realise what I now know, that the person being protected was Pablo Miller, colleague in both MI6 then Orbis Intelligence of Christopher Steele, author of the fabrications of the Trump/Russia golden shower dossier. That the government’s very first act on the poisoning was to ban all media mention of Pablo Miller makes it extremely probable that this whole incident is related to the Trump dossier and that Skripal had worked on it, as I immediately suspected. The most probable cause is that Skripal – who you should remember had traded the names of Russian agents to Britain for cash – had worked on the dossier with Miller but was threatening to expose its lies for cash.”

One thing is certain, if there is a connection between the dossier and Skripal, which seems extremely likely, tying up a potential loose end seems much more likely to be the reason for his poisoning than the widely reported story that Russia tried to kill him. The fact of the matter is that timing of the assassination attempt, being one week before the Russian presidential election and prior to the World Cup, seems to ring of a western intelligence operation meant to tie up a loose end and ratchet up the ongoing information/propaganda war against Russia.

Russia had Skripal imprisoned for 4 years and he lived in the UK for 8 years. This would seem to have allowed for much more studious timing if the Russians had wanted him dead. Are we to believe that the Russians would pick the worst possible time—or is there a more logical explanation?

The reality is that the Trump administration’s investigation into the use of the unverified dossier as a tool to weaponize the U.S. intelligence apparatus for political purposes—as parts were clearly used to gain FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign—is coming to the public forefront. As this information becomes more readily available there will be a much more in-depth investigation into the sources and methods used by Steele.

Make no mistake that contrary to the statement from Orbis, there is a great likelihood that Skripal was intimately involved as a source in the creation of the Trump/Russia dossier. There are clearly too many connections between Steele, Miller, and Skripal to simply be ignored or passed off as mere coincidence of circumstance!

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Details Hazy On 'Death Threats' Against EPA's Scott Pruitt

President Donald Trump cites “death threats” to justify the $3 million round-the-clock security detail for Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, who cites his own security to justify lavish spending on first-class air travel.

But details about any threats to Pruitt are sparse. One supposed threat that was investigated was a postcard to Pruitt with the message: “You ignorant f***,” according to EPA records. Authorities also investigated two protesters who interrupted a speech by Pruitt.

The EPA said there were “zero records” about death threats in reply to BuzzFeed investigative reporter Jason Leopold’s request for all information. 

The Washington Post sought records under the Freedom of Information Act late last year, asking for “copies of all emails, letters, voicemails and other communication in which Administrator Pruitt was threatened with violence or which were otherwise considered to be threatening to the administrator.” The EPA’s answer, dated early December, was “undetermined,” with “no records released.”

Washington Post request to the EPA on any information about death threats against Scott Pruitt. (FOIA Record)Washington Post request to the EPA on any information about death threats against Scott Pruitt. (FOIA Record)

The Associated Press reported last week that its “nationwide search of federal and state court records … found no case where anyone has been arrested or charged with threatening Pruitt.” The EPA did not respond to AP’s request Friday to provide details of “any specific threats or arrests.”

The EPA official in charge of investigating threats ― assistant inspector general for investigations Patrick Sullivan ― would not specify the number of threats that had been logged against Pruitt. But he said in a September interview with E&E News that there were more investigations into threats against Pruitt than for either of his two immediate predecessors.

“I can tell you there’s more than three” investigations, Sullivan said. “That’s for sure.

Officials launched an investigation after a postcard was sent to Pruitt saying: “You are evil incarnite.”

Sullivan told CNN in November there were “four to five times” more threats against Pruitt than his immediate predecessor, but refused to elaborate. 

The EPA requested that Pruitt’s security detail be beefed up soon after he took office. Some $3 million has now been spent on Pruitt’s 20-man round-the-clock protection. In addition, Pruitt’s aides often cite security to justify huge first-class airfare expenses. 

The spending is part of a long series of ethical problems plaguing the EPA chief.


Here are some alleged threats against Pruitt that were investigated, according to reports:

― The EPA inspector general in March 2017 investigated a postcard sent to the EPA that said: “Get out while you still can, Scott,” “You ignorant f***,” and “You are evil incarnite,” according to a report obtained by E&E. EPA investigators discussed the message with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. But they couldn’t identify the author and concluded the message “lacked a clear threat.”

― Another postcard included “an implied threat that contained obscene language,” Sullivan told E&E. “It was not a direct threat.” The U.S. attorney’s office declined to prosecute, and the writer of the message apologized when contacted by federal officials, said Sullivan.

― “Threatening tweets” against Pruitt and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) were investigated in April 2017. The writer told investigators he wrote the “flippant comments” while drinking and watching “The Rachel Maddow Show,” and had no intention of hurting anyone. He apologized, and a U.S. attorney’s office declined to press charges.

― The EPA launched a criminal probe in April 2017 into two female protesters who interrupted a speech by Pruitt. Officials submitted information for misdemeanor charges, but no action was taken.

― The head of the EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement told Politico in February that Pruitt’s safety was threatened when people yelled obscenities at him.

Sullivan said investigations had been launched into 40 threats against EPA “personnel and facilities” in 2017, according to E&E. He told NBC a month later the number was 70 investigations.


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Three investigations were launched into threats against Pruitt’s predecessor, Gina McCarthy, but none against President Barack Obama’s first EPA chief, Lisa Jackson, according to records. One letter to McCarthy threatened: “We will hurt you and your family.” Sullivan used a version of the same quote as an example of a threat to Pruitt in his interview with CNN.

Fox News reported Friday that Pruitt has received an “unprecedented” number of death threats.

“According to EPA’s assistant inspector general, Scott Pruitt has faced an unprecedented amount of death threats against him and his family,” Fox quoted EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox as saying. Wilcox’s statement “included a list of several published reports about such incidents,” Fox reported, without providing details. 

Neither Wilcox nor other EPA representatives immediately responded to HuffPost’s requests for threat details.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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U.S. to Seek Social Media Details From All Visa Applicants

U.S. to Seek Social Media Details From All Visa Applicants

March 29th, 2018

Via: Bloomberg:

The State Department wants to require all U.S. visa applicants to submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers, vastly expanding the Trump administration’s enhanced vetting of potential immigrants and visitors.

In documents to be published in Friday’s Federal Register, the department said it wants the public to comment on the proposed new requirements, which will affect nearly 15 million foreigners who apply for visas to enter the U.S. each year. Previously, social media, email and phone number histories were only sought from applicants identified for extra scrutiny, such as those who have traveled to areas controlled by terrorist organizations. An estimated 65,000 people per year are in that category.

The new rules would apply to virtually all applicants for immigrant and non-immigrant visas. The department estimates it would affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million non-immigrant visa applicants, including those who want to come to the U.S. for business or education, according to the documents.




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Democrats had no problem with Facebook sharing all your private details with the Obama campaign; only after TRUMP won were alarms raised

Image: Democrats had no problem with Facebook sharing all your private details with the Obama campaign; only after TRUMP won were alarms raised

(Natural News)
The hatred for Donald Trump that is excreted from leftists within Washington D.C. and the mainstream media on a daily basis is quickly approaching a point where it’s just embarrassing. As they continue to contradict themselves in their attempt to discredit (and ultimately impeach) the president of the United States, millions of Americans across the country are laughing at them.

One example of this blatant hypocrisy has to do with the current controversy surrounding Facebook and the UK data firm Cambridge Analytica, whereby the personal information of roughly 50 million American users of the social network was collected and, according to Mark Zuckerberg, used to help the Trump campaign get inside of people’s heads to ultimately win the presidential election.

It’s worth noting that while there are some legitimate concerns over privacy rights, what Cambridge Analytica did was not illegal; as a matter of fact, this sort of social media data collection has become quite common, and is used to help businesses and politicians alike. This doesn’t make it completely ethical, necessarily, but from a legal perspective, nothing criminal took place here – but that hasn’t stopped those on the left from using it as a tool to damage President Trump’s presidency.

Zero Hedge reported yesterday that Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower behind the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica controversy, told a group of UK lawmakers that Trump’s election is ultimately what compelled him to speak out on the matter. “I wouldn’t say it was just because of Donald Trump, but Donald Trump makes it click in your head that this actually has a much wider impact,” Wylie said. “I don’t think that military-style information operations is conducive for any democratic process.” (Related: A former Facebook executive says that social media is ripping society apart.)

Well thank you, Christopher Wylie, for looking out for the American people and for being so concerned about what you consider to be “military-style information operations.” By the way, were you equally as concerned about this sort of social media information gathering when Barack Obama was doing it during the 2012 presidential campaign?

The Daily Caller put together a fantastic collection of instances when the liberal mainstream media praised Barack Obama for using Facebook data to further his 2012 presidential campaign. “So far in the presidential election of 2012,” CNN said at the time, “there is only one campaign that is doing cutting-edge work with data.” Of course, they were referring to Barack Obama.

“The Romney team used a far less sophisticated version of the technology,” Time wrote. The left-wing publication Politico also threw in their two cents: “The depth and breadth of the Obama campaign’s 2012 digital operation makes the president’s much-heralded 2008 social media juggernaut… look like cavemen with stone tablets.”

There was even an entire book published on this “secret science” written by liberal journalist Sasha Issenberg, who also wrote a number of articles on “how Democrats became the party of effective campaigning – and why the GOP isn’t catching up anytime soon.”

Well, it’s fair to say that the GOP certainly caught up by 2016, when Donald Trump crushed Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. Hillary ran a horrific campaign, and it also didn’t help that she had been surrounded by scandals and political corruption for years leading up to that point.

Why were the liberals okay with this sort of social media data collection and analysis when Barack Obama was doing it in the 2012 presidential campaign, but yet are infuriated that President Trump and his team used many of the same tactics? The reason, as you probably already know, is because the modern day Democrat Party and the mainstream media are as partisan as it gets, and want to bring down Donald Trump more than anything else.

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Austin bombing investigation continues as new details emerge

New details are emerging about the investigation into the Austin bombings and the background of the suspect, Mark Conditt, including how police were able to track down Conditt’s movements.

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