Mapping Workflow

The HiForm forest change tool uses Google Earth Engine (GEE) to map changes in greenness, specifically, changes in the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). HiForm allows users to quickly explore changes in vegetation condition between two time periods, using Landsat or Sentinel 2 satellite imagery. HiForm can use maximum-value compositing across multiple dates to reduce the negative effects of clouds and cloud shadows made apparent in the NDVI change product that gets produced. The two periods used to calculate NDVI change can be as short as only a few weeks, or over an entire season, or across a year, or multiple years.  We suggest comparing within the growing season, or across growing season years.  We discourage computing NDVI change during spring and fall seasons because the timing of the start and stop of these seasons can vary from one year to the next.  The shift in the timing of the start and stop of spring and fall seasons (across years) could result in mapping vegetation's phenological shift, instead of mapping real forest disturbance. Winter to winter NDVI change (within or across years) is appropriate when needing to map winter, evergreen NDVI change. 

The cloud-free quality of the 'pre-' and 'post-disturbance' time periods are easily previewed by turning-on their 'true-color' representation in the data layers list.  Use this workflow (for previewing the dates selected) as an iterative process to visually obtain the most cloud-free inputs possible.  Sometimes clouds cannot be avoided, so viewing the pre/post 'natural color' products in conjunction with the NDVI change product that gets produced, can identify those areas where false NDVI change may have occurred. As a option to using multi-date compositing for the pre- and/or post-disturbance dates, see the "RESOURCES" #6 below for an app to help identify single dates of cloud-free images to use for the pre and/or post time period. 

HiForm NDVI 'absolute' change script (requires a GEE account and Google Chrome) (legend blues to -3)

HiForm NDVI 'percent' change script, strongly exaggerates NDVI change (legend blues to -1)

Signing up for a Google Earth Engine account:

The following workflow assumes you have an account and are viewing HiForm's data entry interface:
One popular way to quickly get a quality 1-year NDVI change product, for the 'pre' dates, is to 'max-composite' over the previous years entire growing season.  For example, enter 2021-07-15 in the first 'pre' date box, then enter 2021-09-15 in the second 'pre' date box, and for the 'post-disturbance' date, use #6 below to find one cloud free 'post' date.  In the 2-box 'post' date control windows, enter that exact single date in the first 'post' box, then add a day to the date for entry into the second 'post' date box. For example-purposes-only, if your one cloud free 'post' date is 08-07-2022, enter 2022-08-07 in the first 'post' date box, then enter 2022-08-08 in the second 'post' date box, that's the way GEE needs it referenced when denoting the use of a single date of imagery. Then in HiForm, select "Do the change analysis" to view your result.


  1. HiForm 'how-to'
  2. HiForm Legend ( absolute )  ( percent )
  3. 'Color map' file (esri .clr)
  4. HiForm Logo
  5. HiForm forest disturbance map products on AGOL (select the layers icon to see the table of contents)
  6. Image pre-viewer to id cloud free, single dates - EO Browser (from ESA, multiple satellite platforms)
  7. Image pre-viewer to id cloud free, single dates - EE Application (Sentinel-2 Surface Reflectance products)



  1. Export a 10m Sentinel-2 image in natural color (script), ag-enhanced and CIR versions viewable
  2. Export a 10m Sentinel-2 image in natural color and NDVI change product (script)  ('how-to' pdf)
  3. Merge Landsat 8 and 9, absolute and percent NDVI change (script)
  4. Exports forest disturbance polygons directly from Earth Engine, view the 'how-to' pdf for the script's link,
    the example provided is from Forest Tent Caterpillar, on the Pearl River, LA, 04/17/2023
  5. HiForm Timber Harvest BMP Tool (script) ('how-to' pdf)



  • See the "About" page.