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Data Release for the validation of the USGS Landsat Burned Area Product across the conterminous U.S.

August 27, 2020

Complete and accurate burned area map data are needed to document spatial and temporal patterns of fires, to quantify their drivers, and to assess the impacts on human and natural systems. In this study, we developed the Landsat Burned Area (BA) algorithm, an update from the Landsat Burned Area Essential Climate Variable (BAECV) algorithm. We present the BA algorithm and products, changes relative to the BAECV algorithm and products, and updated validation metrics. We also present spatial and temporal patterns of burned area across the conterminous U.S. and a comparison with other burned area datasets. The BA algorithm identifies burned areas in analysis ready data (ARD) time-series of Landsat imagery from 1984 through 2018 using machine learning, thresholding, and image segmentation. Validation with reference data from high-resolution commercial satellite imagery resulted in omission and commission error rates averaging 19% and 41%, respectively. In comparison, validation with Landsat reference data had omission and commission error rates averaging 40% and 28%, respectively when burned areas in cultivated crops and pasture/hay land-cover types were excluded. Both validation tests documented lower commission error rates relative to the BAECV products. The BA products will be routinely produced as new Landsat data are collected and provide a unique data source to monitor and assess the spatial and temporal patterns and the impacts of fire. Additionally, the BA algorithm and products confirm the ability to generate consistent fire information over large spatial and temporal extents using moderate-resolution satellite imagery.