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Remote Sens. 2017, 9(7), 743; doi:10.3390/rs9070743

Evaluation of the U.S. Geological Survey Landsat Burned Area Essential Climate Variable across the Conterminous U.S. Using Commercial High-Resolution Imagery

U.S. Geological Survey, Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center, P.O. Box 25046, DFC, MS980, Lakewood, CO 80225, USA
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Received: 8 May 2017 / Revised: 10 July 2017 / Accepted: 17 July 2017 / Published: 20 July 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Quantitative Remote Sensing of Land Surface Variables)
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Abstract

The U.S. Geological Survey has produced the Landsat Burned Area Essential Climate Variable (BAECV) product for the conterminous United States (CONUS), which provides wall-to-wall annual maps of burned area at 30 m resolution (1984–2015). Validation is a critical component in the generation of such remotely sensed products. Previous efforts to validate the BAECV relied on a reference dataset derived from Landsat, which was effective in evaluating the product across its timespan but did not allow for consideration of inaccuracies imposed by the Landsat sensor itself. In this effort, the BAECV was validated using 286 high-resolution images, collected from GeoEye-1, QuickBird-2, Worldview-2 and RapidEye satellites. A disproportionate sampling strategy was utilized to ensure enough burned area pixels were collected. Errors of omission and commission for burned area averaged 22 ± 4% and 48 ± 3%, respectively, across CONUS. Errors were lowest across the western U.S. The elevated error of commission relative to omission was largely driven by patterns in the Great Plains which saw low errors of omission (13 ± 13%) but high errors of commission (70 ± 5%) and potentially a region-growing function included in the BAECV algorithm. While the BAECV reliably detected agricultural fires in the Great Plains, it frequently mapped tilled areas or areas with low vegetation as burned. Landscape metrics were calculated for individual fire events to assess the influence of image resolution (2 m, 30 m and 500 m) on mapping fire heterogeneity. As the spatial detail of imagery increased, fire events were mapped in a patchier manner with greater patch and edge densities, and shape complexity, which can influence estimates of total greenhouse gas emissions and rates of vegetation recovery. The increasing number of satellites collecting high-resolution imagery and rapid improvements in the frequency with which imagery is being collected means greater opportunities to utilize these sources of imagery for Landsat product validation. View Full-Text
Keywords: burned area; essential climate variable; fire; Landsat; QuickBird-2; RapidEye; validation; Worldview-2 burned area; essential climate variable; fire; Landsat; QuickBird-2; RapidEye; validation; Worldview-2
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Vanderhoof, M.K.; Brunner, N.; Beal, Y.-J.G.; Hawbaker, T.J. Evaluation of the U.S. Geological Survey Landsat Burned Area Essential Climate Variable across the Conterminous U.S. Using Commercial High-Resolution Imagery. Remote Sens. 2017, 9, 743.

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