International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The validity and utility of MODIS data for simple estimation of area burned and aerosols emitted by wildfire events

Sarah B. Henderson A D , Charles Ichoku B , Benjamin J. Burkholder A , Michael Brauer A and Peter L. Jackson C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Environmental Health, The University of British Columbia, 3rd Floor,2206 East Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z3, Canada.

B Climate and Radiation Branch, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, 613.2, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA.

C Environmental Science and Engineering, University of Northern British Columbia, 3333 University Way, Prince George, BC, V2N 4Z9, Canada.

D Corresponding author. Email: sarah.henderson@ubc.ca

International Journal of Wildland Fire 19(7) 844-852 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF09027
Submitted: 10 March 2009  Accepted: 18 April 2010   Published: 5 November 2010

Abstract

Wildfire emissions are challenging to measure and model, but simple and realistic estimates can benefit multiple disciplines. We evaluate the potential of MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) data to address this objective. A total of 11 004 fire pixels detected over 92 days were clustered into 242 discrete fire events in a mountainous region of North America. Burned areas were estimated with spatial buffers around the MODIS detections, and all events were matched and compared with administrative fire records based on their location and duration. Linear regression between recorded and estimated burned areas showed excellent agreement (slope = 0.93 and R2 = 0.96). Aerosol emission rates were estimated for each MODIS detection using its fire radiative power measurement. Results were compared with estimates from the Canadian Fire Behaviour (CANFB) prediction system in Canada and the US Emissions Production Model (USEPM) for detections in the US. Median emission rates were similar for the MODIS and CANFB methods (600 and 579 g s–1 respectively) but not for the MODIS and USEPM methods (575 and 382 g s–1 respectively). The MODIS rates were much more variable in both comparisons. Linear regression on emission rates summed daily across the study area shows that the MODIS method is more consistent with CANFB (slope = 0.71, R2 = 0.71) than with USEPM (slope = 0.24, R2 = 0.68). We conclude that simple calculations based on remote sensing data can yield results that are comparable with those obtained with more complex methods.


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