Global Burned Area Mapping from ESA Satellites: the Fire_cci Project
University of Alcala, SPAIN
The European Space Agency (ESA) Climate Change Initiative (CCI) is part of the European contribution to the Global Observing Climate System (GCOS) program. Fire disturbance is one of the Essential Climate Variables included in the ESA CCI program. It focus on mapping burned area (BA) using European sensors (ATSR, VEGETATION and MERIS data), and in comparing the performance of the results with other existing datasets. The project aims at developing and validating algorithms, which produce consistent, stable, error-characterized global BA information. The project includes as well algorithms for pre-processing of ATSR, VEGETATION and MERIS data, to improve geometrical accuracy and remove atmospheric effects that may lead to potential confusions with burned areas (clouds, smoke, cloud shadows, water, snow, topographic shadows), as well as algorithms to merge BA from the three input sensors and adapting the outputs to the needs of the climate modeling community.
From a conceptual point of view, the project tries to answer the following scientific questions: What is the actual magnitude of fire impacts? How much area is burned annually worldwide?, What are the recent trends in fire activity? These questions are the basis for other aspects of global fire science, such as the amount of biomass actually consumed by the fires and their associated GHG emissions, the departure of current fire occurrence from natural fire regimes, the role of fire in world deforestation (REDD+), or the main factors behind fire occurrence trends, on whether they are mostly socio-economic (land-use transformation, for instance), political (fire suppression policy) or climatic.
The project has generated a large dataset of validation files, covering both spatial and temporal variations of burned area trends for the major biomes. All have been generated from multitemporal pairs of Landsat TM/ETM images, using standard protocols of the CEOS Cal-Val Fire group. Preliminary outputs of the merged burned area product show good temporal consistency and closer estimations to other existing burned area datasets, such as those used for the Global Fire Emission Database (v3).