Historical background and current developments for mapping burned area from satellite Earth observation

Emilio Chuvieco*, Florent Mouillot, Guido R. van der Werf, Jesús San Miguel, Mihai Tanasse, Nikos Koutsias, Mariano García, Marta Yebra, Marc Padilla, Ioannis Gitas, Angelika Heil, Todd J. Hawbaker, Louis Giglio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Fire has a diverse range of impacts on Earth's physical and social systems. Accurate and up to date information on areas affected by fire is critical to better understand drivers of fire activity, as well as its relevance for biogeochemical cycles, climate, air quality, and to aid fire management. Mapping burned areas was traditionally done from field sketches. With the launch of the first Earth observation satellites, remote sensing quickly became a more practical alternative to detect burned areas, as they provide timely regional and global coverage of fire occurrence. This review paper explores the physical basis to detect burned area from satellite observations, describes the historical trends of using satellite sensors to monitor burned areas, summarizes the most recent approaches to map burned areas and evaluates the existing burned area products (both at global and regional scales). Finally, it identifies potential future opportunities to further improve burned area detection from Earth observation satellites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-64
Number of pages20
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


Unlabelled Table Acronym Definition AFIS Advance Fire Information System AR Assessment Reports ATSR Along track scanning radiometer AVHRR Advanced Very High-Resolution Radiometer BA Burned area BAECV Burned Area Essential Climate Variable BAECV Landsat Burned Area Essential Climate Variable BAI Burned area index BAIM Modified burned area index BRDF Bidirectional reflectance distribution function BFAST Breaks for Additive Seasonal and Trend BGR Blue, green and red CBI Composite Burned Index CCI Climate Change Initiative CCM Chemistry–climate models CEOS Committee on Earth Observing Satellites CONABIO Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad COP Conference of the Parties CTM Chemical transport models CWFIS Canadian Wildland Fire Information System DGVM Dynamic Global Vegetation Model EFFIS European Forest Fire Information System EMS Emergency Management Service EMT+ Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus Envisat Enviromental satellite EO Earth observation ERS European Remote-Sensing Satellite ERTS Earth Resources Technology Satellite ESA European Space Agency EUSF European Union Solidarity Fund FAO Food and Agriculture Organization FINN Fire INventory from NCAR FireCCI50 MODIS based 250 m global BA product derived from the Fire_cci project FOFEM First-Order Fire Effects Model FRE Fire Radiative Energy FRP Fire radiative power GA Geoscience Australia GBA Global Burnt Area GCOS Global Climate Observing System GDP Global domestic product GEMI Global environmental monitoring index GFED Global Fire Emission Database GIO_GL1 Global BA product derived from the Copernicus Land Service GIS Geographic information systems GLAS Geoscience Laser Altimeter System GLOBSCAR Global Burn Scars HH Horizontal-horizontal HRV Haute Résolution Visible HRV High Resolution Visibl HS Hotspots HV Horizontal-vertical ICESat Ice, Cloud,and land Elevation Satellite InSAR Interferometric synthetic aperture radar IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IRS Indian Remote Sensing Landsat Land Remote-Sensing Satellite LandTrendr Trends in Disturbance and Recovery Lidar Light Detection and Ranging LISS Linear imaging and self-scanning sensor LTDR Long Term Data Record M3 Monitoring, mapping and modeling MERIS MEdium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer MESMA Multiple Endmember Spectral Mixture Analysis MIR Middle infrared MIRBI Mid-infrared burn index MODIS Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer MSI Multispectral Instrument MSS Multispectral scanner MTBS Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity NAFI North Australia and Rangelands Fire Information NASA National Aeronautics andSpace Administration NBR Normalized burned ratio NCAR National Center for Atmospheric Research NDMI Normalized Difference Moisture Index NDVI Normalized difference vegetation index NDWI Normalized Difference Water Index NIR Near infrared NOAA National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration NOFFi National Observatory of Forest Fires NRT Near real time OBAM Operational Burned Area Mapping OBIA Object-based image analysis OLI Operational Land Imager PAL Pathfinder AVHRR Land product PCA Principal component analysis PROBA-V Project for On-Board Autonomy Vegetation Radar Radio detection and ranging RSAC Remote Sensing Applications Center RTM Radiative transfer models SAR Synthetic aperture radar SAVI Soil Adjusted Vegetation Index SDG Sustainable Development Goals SMA Spectral mixture analysis SPOT Systeme Probatoire d'Observation de la Terre SVM Support vector machines SWIR Short-wave infrared TIR Thermal infrared TM Thematic Mapper USGS United States Geological Survey VCT Vegetation Change Tracker VGT VEGETATION instrument VH Vertical-horizontal VV Vertical-vertical WFLC Wildland Fire Leadership Council WIFS Wide field sensor

FundersFunder number
Greece's Green Fund
Laboratory of Forest Management and Remote Sensing of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
U.S. Geological Survey
U.S. Forest Service
Hellenic Ministry of Environment and Energy
Research Committee, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Ministry of Environment
Green Fund
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki


    • Burned area
    • Climate change
    • Fire
    • Fire impacts
    • Lidar
    • Radar


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