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Addressing post-fire impacts largely depends on burn “severity.” A singular severity classification that encompasses the holistic effects of fire on all ecosystem processes does not currently exist. Lumping vegetation burn severity and soil burn severity into one metric, or using them interchangeably, can induce large inaccuracies and uncertainties in the intended ecosystem response to forcing. Often, burn “severity” reflects fire impacts on vegetation, which can be measured through remote sensing. Vegetation burn severity is likely more apropos for ecological research, whereas soil burn severity is more relevant for hydrological analyses. This paper reviews different remotely sensed vegetation severity products currently (mis)used for hydrological modeling, provides examples of when vegetation burn severity may (not) match soil burn severity, and summarizes the potential synergistic future of remote sensing with in situ severity metrics. While the focus in this paper is on the western United States, the lessons and principles apply universally.

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This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Hydrological Sciences Journal on January 2024, available online:

Available for download on Sunday, December 15, 2024