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A comparison of NOAA–AVHRR fire data with three Landsat data sets in arid and semi-arid Australia

Turner, Dorothy, Ostendorf, Bertram, Lewis, Megan
International journal of remote sensing 2012 v.33 no.9 pp. 2657-2682
Landsat, arid zones, burning, data collection, fuels (fire ecology), image analysis, land use, regression analysis, soil, vegetation, Australia
Burnt area data, derived from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) imagery, are validated in 11 regions of arid and semi-arid Australia, using three separate Landsat-derived burnt area data sets. Mapping accuracy of burnt extent is highly variable between areas and from year to year within the same area. Where there are corresponding patches in the AVHRR and Landsat data sets, the fit is good. However, the AVHRR data set misses some large patches. Overall, 63% of the Landsat burnt area is also mapped in the AVHRR data set, but this varies from 0% to 89% at different sites. In total, 81% of the AVHRR burnt area data are matched in the Landsat data set, but range from 0% to 94%. The lower match rates (<50%) are generally when little area has burnt (0–500 km²), with figures generally better in the more northerly sites. Results of regressions analysis based on 10 km × 10 km cells are also variable, with R² values ranging from 0.37 (n = 116) to 0.94 (n = 85). For the Tanami Desert scene, R² varies from 0.41 to 0.61 (n = 368) over three separate years. Combining the data results in an R² of 0.60 (n = 1315) (or 0.56 with the intercept set to 0). The slopes of the regressions indicate that mapping the burnt area from AVHRR imagery underestimates the ‘true’ extent of burning for all scenes and years. Differences in mapping accuracy between low and high fire years are examined, as well as the influence of soil, vegetation, land use and tenure on mapping accuracy. Issues which are relevant to mapping fire in arid and semi-arid environments and discontinuous fuels are highlighted.