Timing constraints on remote sensing of wildland fire burned area in the southeastern US

Remote Sensing
By:  and 



Remote sensing using Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) satellite imagery is increasingly used for mapping wildland fire burned area and burn severity, owing to its frequency of collection, relatively high resolution, and availability free of charge. However, rapid response of vegetation following fire and frequent cloud cover pose challenges to this approach in the southeastern US. We assessed these timing constraints by using a series of Landsat TM images to determine how rapidly the remotely sensed burn scar signature fades following prescribed burns in wet flatwoods and depression swamp community types in the Apalachicola National Forest, Florida, USA during 2006. We used both the Normalized Burn Ratio (NBR) of reflectance bands sensitive to vegetation and exposed soil cover, as well as the change in NBR from before to after fire (dNBR), to estimate burned area. We also determined the average and maximum amount of time following fire required to obtain a cloud-free image for burns in each month of the year, as well as the predicted effect of this time lag on percent accuracy of burn scar estimates. Using both NBR and dNBR, the detectable area decreased linearly 9% per month on average over the first four months following fire. Our findings suggest that the NBR and dNBR methods for monitoring burned area in common southeastern US vegetation community types are limited to an average of 78–90% accuracy among months of the year, with individual burns having values as low as 38%, if restricted to use of Landsat 5 TM imagery. However, the majority of burns can still be mapped at accuracies similar to those in other regions of the US, and access to additional sources of satellite imagery would improve overall accuracy.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Timing constraints on remote sensing of wildland fire burned area in the southeastern US
Series title Remote Sensing
DOI 10.3390/rs3081680
Volume 3
Issue 8
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher MDPI
Contributing office(s) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
Description 11 p.
First page 1680
Last page 1690
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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