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  Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
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 Just Accepted

This article has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. It is in production and has not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.

An accuracy assessment of the MTBS burned area product for shrub-steppe fires in the northern Great Basin, United States

Aaron Sparks, Luigi Boschetti, Wade Tinkham, Alistair Smith, Karen Lannom, Beth Newingham


Although fire is a common disturbance in shrub-steppe, few studies have specifically tested burned area mapping accuracy in these semi-arid to arid environments. We conducted a preliminary assessment of the accuracy of the Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity (MTBS) burned area product on four shrub-steppe fires that exhibited varying degrees of within-fire patch heterogeneity. Independent burned area perimeters were derived through visual interpretation and were used to cross-compare the MTBS burned area perimeters with classifications produced using set thresholds on the Relativized differenced Normalized Burn Index (RdNBR), mid-infrared burn index (MIRBI), and the char soil index (CSI). Overall, CSI provided the most consistent accuracies (96.3-98.6%), with only small commission errors (1.5-4.43%). MIRBI also had relatively high accuracies (92.9-97.9%) and small commission errors (2.1-10.8%). The MTBS burned area product had high commission errors (4.3-15.5%), primarily due to inclusion of unburned islands and fingers within the fire perimeter. The RdNBR burned area maps exhibited very high commission errors (17.2-42.4%), however, when constrained by the MTBS perimeter provided accuracies (93.1-97.4%) comparable to CSI and MIRBI. Studies seeking to use MTBS data to analyze trends in burned area should apply spectral-indices to constrain the final burned area maps.

WF13206  Accepted 20 March 2014
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