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Satellite-based mapping of Canadian boreal forest fires: evaluation and comparison of algorithms

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This paper evaluates annual fire maps that were produced from NOAA-14/AVHRR imagery using an algorithm described in a companion paper (Li et al., International Journal of Remote Sensing, 21 , 3057-3069, 2000 (this issue)). Burned area masks covering the Canadian boreal forest were created by compositing the daily maps of fire hot spots over the summer and by examining Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) changes after burning. Both masks were compared with fire polygons derived by Canadian fire agencies through aerial surveillance. It was found that the majority of fire events were captured by the satellite-based techniques, but burnt area was generally underestimated. The burn boundary formed by the fire pixels detected by satellite were in good agreement with the polygons boundaries within which, however, there were some fires missed by the satellite. The presence of clouds and low sampling frequency of satellite observation are the two major causes for the underestimation. While this problem is alleviated by taking advantage of NDVI changes, a simple combination of a hot spot technique with a NDVI method is not an ideal solution due to the introduction of new sources of uncertainty. In addition, the performance of the algorithm used in the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) Data and Information System (IGBPDIS) for global fire detection was evaluated by comparing its results with ours and with the fire agency reports. It was found that the IGBP-DIS algorithm is capable of detecting the majority of fires over the boreal forest, but also includes many false fires over old burned scars created by fires taking place in previous years. A step-by-step comparison between the two algorithms revealed the causes of the problem and recommendations are made to rectify them.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, 588 Booth, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1A OY7 2: Environment Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1A OH3 3: Canadian Forest Service, Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada

Publication date: 2000-11-10

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