Methodology for estimating burned area from AVHRR reflectance data

Razafimpanilo, H, Frouin R, Iacobellis SF, Somerville RCJ.  1995.  Methodology for estimating burned area from AVHRR reflectance data. Remote Sensing of Environment. 54:273-289.

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images, savanna fires


Two methods are described to determine burned area from Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) data. The first method, or the ''linear method,'' employs Channel 2 reflectance, R(2), and is based on the nearly linear relationship between the fraction of pixel burned, P, and R(2). The second method, or the ''nonlinear method,'' employs the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) derived from Channels 1 and 2 reflectances, and is based on the nonlinear relationship P=f(NDVI), a polynomial of order 2 in NDVI. The coefficients of the polynomial are parameterized as a function of the NDVI of the background before the fire event. Radiative transfer simulations indicate that the linear method, unlike the nonlinear method, must be applied to top-of-atmosphere reflectances that have been corrected for atmospheric influence. Sensitivity studies suggest that the methods are subject to some limitations. To avoid discontinuity problems, the original background (just before the fire) must be characterized by a Channel 2 reflectance above 0.07 and by a positive NDVI. To separate the useful signal from atmospheric effects, the fire scar must occupy at least 20% and 12% of the pixel area in the case of savanna and green vegetation (e.g., forest), respectively When applied to uniform pixels, the mean relative error on the fraction of area burned is about 20% for the linear method and 10% for the nonlinear method. The linear method gives better results for nonuniform pixels, but neither method can be used when the pixel contains low reflectance backgrounds (e.g., water).