Integration of Multiple Spectral Indices and a Neural Network for Burned Area Mapping Based on MODIS Data

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Original languageEnglish
Article number326
Journal / PublicationRemote Sensing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019



Since wildfires have occurred frequently in recent years, accurate burned area mapping is required for wildfire severity assessment and burned land reconstruction. Satellite remote sensing is an effective technology that can provide valuable information for wildfire assessment. However, the common approaches based on using a single satellite image to promptly detect the burned areas have low accuracy and limited applicability. This paper develops a new burned area mapping method that surpasses the detection accuracy of previous methods, while still using a single Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor image. The key innovation is integrating optimal spectral indices and a neural network algorithm. We used the traditional empirical formula method, multi-threshold method and visual interpretation method to extract the sample sets of five typical types (burned area, vegetation, cloud, bare soil, and cloud shadow) from the MODIS data of several wildfires in the American states of Nevada,Washington and California in 2016. Afterward, the separability index M was adopted to assess the capacity of seven spectral bands and 13 spectral indices to distinguish the burned area from four unburned land cover types. Based on the separability analysis between the burned area and unburned areas, the spectral indices with an M value higher than 1.0 were employed to generate the training sample sets that were assessed to have an overall accuracy of 98.68% and Kappa coefficient of 97.46%. Finally, we utilized a back-propagation neural network (BPNN) to learn the spectral differences of different types from the training sample sets and obtain the output burned area map. The proposed method was applied to three wildfire cases in the American states of Idaho, Nevada and Oregon in 2017. A comparison of detection results between the new MODIS-based burned area map and the reference burned area map compiled from Landsat-8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) data indicates that the proposed method can effectively exploit the spectral characteristics of various land cover types. Also, this new method can achieve higher accuracy with the reduction of commission error (CE, > 10%) and omission error (OE, > 6%) compared to the traditional empirical formula method. The new burned area mapping method could help managers and the public perform more effective wildfire assessments and emergency management.

Research Area(s)

  • Burned area, MODIS, Neural network, Spectral indices

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