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CASA "Quarterly Indicator of Cover Change" (QUICC)

Deforestation and forest fires are global land cover changes that can be caused by both natural and human factors. Although monitoring forest fires in near-real time is critical for operational wildfire management, mapping historical wildfires in a spatially explicit fashion is also important for a number of reasons, including climate change studies (e.g., examining the relationship between rising temperatures and frequency of fires), fuel load management (e.g., deciding when and where to conduct controlled burns), and carbon cycle studies (e.g., quantifying how much CO2 is emitted by fires and for emissions reduction efforts under the United Nations programs for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation -- REDD).

Reliable maps of global forest cover change are frequently years out-of-date. Consequently, there is a pressing need to develop techniques for monitoring and verifying land cover change and forest disturbances in a timely, low-cost, and accurate manner. Satellite remote sensing from instruments such as NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) offers a consistent and cost-effective method for mapping forest cover change. MODIS data are obtained freely with global daily cover products.

A new MODIS product called the "Quarterly Indicator of Cover Change" (QUICC) has been developed at NASA Ames Research Center by the CASA ecosystem modeling team. The QUICC product is based on comparison of MODIS global vegetation index (VI) images at the exact same time period each year (ending of March, June, September, and December) in consecutive years. The 'every-three-month' update interval gives the QUICC product its "Quarterly" timeliness. The CASA team updates its global QUICC products as soon as the newest quarterly MODIS worldwide VI image at 5-km spatial resolution is available (see latest global example below from December 2011, with QUICC change points shown in red).

QUICC December 2011

The QUICC product identifies all land areas that have lost at least 40% of their green vegetation cover over the past year. This level of green canopy loss is commonly associated with major forest wildfires and deforestation events. Confirmation of QUICC accuracy for identifying wildfires throughout the United States is shown in the image examples below from the evaluation year of 2007. Light-blue outlines of the wildfire perimeters (mapped independently by the U. S. Forest Service and the U. S. Geological Survey;, 2008) are nearly all filled-in or centrally located by the QUICC product MODIS pixels areas (in dark-blue) and identified with a significant loss of green vegetation cover during the previous year. These validation images represent a wide variety of climates, elevation, wetland cover, and forest types, over which the QUICC product is equally verified as accurate.



Timeliness of the QUICC product will enable organizations that are monitoring forests anywhere in the world with the capacity to respond within weeks or months (rather than years) to threats to protected forest reserves and parks. The proven quality and accuracy of the MODIS VI and QUICC products assure that any locations identified as altered can be trusted, and then subsequently described by local survey techniques as to the actual causes of forest cover loss.

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