Hurricanes can cause high rates and complex patterns of tree mortality by wind-thrown and snapped trees [Lugo and Scatena, 1995]. This can alter patterns of forest regeneration [Lugo and Scatena, 1996; Lugo, 2000] by providing an optimal environment for colonizing vegetation [Allen et al., 2005; Denslow, 1985; Gagnon et al., 2007; Gagnon and Platt, 2008; Snitzer et al., 2005] leading to change in species composition [Xi et al., 2008]. Tree mortality associated with wind-driven disturbance may also weaken the terrestrial ecosystem sink of CO2 due to increased decomposition [Chambers et al., 2007a; Negrón-Juárez et al., 2008; Zeng et al., 2009]. Forest areas impacted by hurricanes are also characterized by more radiant energy reaching the soil surface, producing increased evaporation rates and reduced soil moisture [Carlton and Bazzaz, 1998], and changes in surface albedo which can modify regional climate [Negrón-Juárez et al., 2008].
 Hurricane-induced tree mortality is caused by wind, flooding, and storm surges [Negrón-Juárez et al., 2008] but the severity and extent depends on forest structure, species composition, topography and storm intensity [Brokaw and Walker, 1991; Boose et al., 1994; Zhao et al., 2006]. The immediate and direct damage to forests ranges from defoliation, which tends to be the most common effect, damage to small branches, loss of large branches and finally trunk twisting, snapping and uprooting [Brokaw and Walker, 1991]. Collateral damage is also produced when trees fall on adjacent trees. Taller trees with a larger diameter are more likely to be uprooted rather than snapped, which often results in mortality [Brokaw and Walker, 1991; Gresham et al., 1991; Snitzer et al., 2005]. Smaller trees tend to bend or twist and can also snap but are rarely uprooted [Gresham et al., 1991; Stanturf et al., 2007].
 While hurricane intensity has been discussed [Emanuel, 2005; Webster et al., 2005; Hoyos et al., 2006; Wu and Wang, 2008; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007] and the associated damage to forests is qualitatively known, quantifying large-scale forest disturbances (downed and dead, and snapped trees) has been limited. Observational studies to quantify forest disturbance produced by tropical cyclones are often constrained to small spatial scales because of the limited number of forest inventory plots that can be logistically handled postdisturbance. The small spatial scale of these studies does not allow for large-scale extrapolation. Remote sensing offers the opportunity to observe and quantify large-scale landscape disturbance. In combination with field work, remote sensing has been used to develop models to detect and quantify large-scale forest disturbance [Mildrexler et al., 2009; Chambers et al., 2007a], to predict the amount of coarse woody debris present following wildfire events [Huang et al., 2009], and to predict fire fuel conditions [Elmore et al., 2005]. Quantifying large-scale forest disturbance is a critical step in assessing the impact of tropical cyclones on landscape carbon balance and local climate [Chambers et al., 2007a; Running, 2008; Negrón-Juárez et al., 2008; Zeng et al., 2009] and in providing postdisturbance management strategies [Stanturf et al., 2007]. These methods can later be applied to areas with similar forest characteristics where field measurements are difficult to obtain [Elmore et al., 2005].
 In this study we estimate large-scale forest disturbances (downed and dead and snapped trees) resulting from hurricanes in the U.S. Gulf Coast region by combining field-measured tree mortality rates, remote sensing data and modeling. Our estimate is based on a relationship between observed disturbance data and a Landsat remote sensing metric across a range of U.S. Gulf Coast forest types affected by hurricanes Katrina (2005), Rita (2005), and Gustav (2008). Quantifying forest disturbance produced by hurricanes is necessary to evaluate the extent and severity of damage which in turn allows us to identify patterns of vulnerability, make management decisions following hurricanes, and design strategies for its mitigation. This quantification is also necessary to estimate biomass loss from hurricane-induced tree damage in order to obtain a proper assessment of carbon loss which can be used in climate models to add confidence to climate change projections. In addition, assessing the extent and severity of these disturbances will produce a baseline for studying the successional processes that follow.