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New operational national satellite burned area product

December 31, 2020

Lack of consistent spatial and temporal fire information with relevant spatial resolution hinders land management and broad-scale assessments of fire activity, especially in the eastern United States and the Great Plains where fi re is important ecologically and culturally. Remote sensing can be used to monitor fi re activity, augment existing fi re data, and fill information gaps. In particular, Landsat offers one of the most complete time series of remote sensing data sets as the Landsat satellites with spectral bands useful for mapping fi res and burn severity have been operational since 1984. Furthermore, Landsat satellite imagery collect data at a resolution useful for on-the-ground comparisons and management decisions.

A gradient-boosting regression model algorithm was used to predict burn probabilities (BP), indicating the likelihood that a pixel had burned in a fire. Then the algorithm translated the burn probability images to burn classification (BC) images using thresholding and region growing. Burned areas smaller than 5 acres were removed to reduce noise. The BP and BC products were generated for Landsat scenes collected from 1984 to present with <= 80% cloud cover and are available for download from USGSs EarthExplorer website (www.earthexplorer.

Annual summaries were also produced from the scene-level BC and BP products. These include: 1) the maximum burn probability value from all scenes in a year, (2) the burn classification count, or the number of times a pixel was classified as burned in a year, (3) the burn date, or the day of year of the first Landsat scene a pixel was classified as burned, and (4) a burn classification which removes burned areas still visible from previous years with a filter.

The Landsat Burned Area Products identified 183% more burned area than the Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity and 56% more burned area than the MODIS MCD64A1.006 products2. From 1984 through 2018, annual burned area mapped by the Landsat Burned Area Products averaged 30,000 km2, ranged between 14,000 km2 in 1991 and 46,500 km2 in 2012, and increased over time at a rate of 356 km2/year.

The Landsat Burned Area products consistently map burned areas 5 acres or larger over time while capturing unburned islands within fi res. Such characteristics are critical for understanding long-term impacts of fi res on human and natural systems. The products are being routinely produced as new Landsat data are collected and demonstrate the utility remote sensing offers for monitoring landscape change.

Publication Year 2020
Title New operational national satellite burned area product
Authors Todd Hawbaker, Melanie K. Vanderhoof, Gail L. Schmidt, Yen-Ju G. Beal, Joshua J. Picotte, Joshua Takacs, Jeff T. Falgout, John L. Dwyer
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Index ID 70217862
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Core Science Analytics and Synthesis; Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center; Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center