Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Previously Published Works bannerUC Berkeley

Multi-cyclone analysis and machine learning model implications of cyclone effects on forests


Past studies of cyclones (hurricanes, typhoons, tropical cyclones) disturbance showed that meteorological, topographical, and biological factors affect the patterns of forest disturbance intensity but left open the extent to which these findings were representative across different global cyclone regions. Using remote sensing data and machine learning models, we examined how these factors change over spatial scales and assessed their consistency across four major cyclones: Katrina (August 2005), Rita (September 2005), Yasi (February 2011), and María (September 2017). Our results revealed that the factors which best explained forest disturbance intensity pattern varied across these regions. Wind speed and precipitation were the dominant factors contributing to the variation in impacts of Katrina; terrain features, especially elevation, explained most of the variation in disturbance intensity of Rita; pre-disturbance vegetation condition was significant predictors of effects of Yasi; these factors played equal roles in explaining the disturbance intensity variation of María. A 40 m/s (144 km/h) wind speed threshold was proposed to split low- and high-level forest disturbance intensity. Other than wind speed, few generalizations can be made on features across multiple regions. We built several generalized hurricane impact models, which worked well with the test data from cyclones used for model development (R2 = 0.89). However, these models did not have good predictions on other cyclones, such as Michael (October 2018) and Laura (August 2020). This study showed that each cyclone interacted with the landscape in a unique way and the challenges remained in building a generalized cyclone impact model.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View