Comparing Simulated Hydrologic Response Before and After the 2011 Bastrop Complex Wildfire
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On September 4, 2011, the Bastrop Complex Wildfire grew into what would become the most destructive wildfire in the history of Texas. The fire consumed 130 square kilometers of wildland urban interface near Bastrop, TX. The Loblolly Pine trees of the Lost Pine Forest suffered high rates of tree mortality. At the time the region was experiencing one of the driest and hottest periods of record in Texas history.
The purpose of this study was to explore possible changes in surface hydrology caused by the Bastrop Complex Wildfire. This study used multispectral remote sensing imagery acquired from Landsat 5 immediately before, and after the wildfire to classify land cover/land use (LCLU) change within the drainage area of the Colorado River where the wildfire occurred. The drainage area was defined by the upstream and downstream USGS streamgaging-stations along the Colorado River. The LCLU data were applied to the Soil Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) in order to simulate pre- and post-fire surface hydrology conditions. The resulting simulations were compared to examine possible changes in surface runoff volume and sediment yield for the continuous time simulation and for discrete rainfall events of varying magnitudes.
The comparison of the continuous time simulation resulted in a significant increase in post-fire surface runoff and sediment yield. Despite the fact that there were no significant differences of water yield and time to peak among discrete rainfall events, it was found that the peak discharge increases with higher rainfall intensity. This research also reported a large percent increase in post-fire sediment yield for the discrete rain events that is consistent with the literature.