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A comparison of remotely-sensed and inventory datasets for burned area in Mediterranean Europe

Journal: International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
Year: 2019   Volume: 82
Status: Published
In this status since: 28 Jun 2019
Link to PDF: 2019_Turco_BA
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jag.2019.05.020
Turco, M., , Tourigny, E., Chuvieco, E., Provenzale, A.

Quantitative estimate of observational uncertainty is an essential ingredient to correctly interpret changes in climatic and environmental variables such as wildfires. In this work we compare four state-of-the-art satellite fire products with the gridded, ground-based EFFIS dataset for Mediterranean Europe and analyse their statistical differences. The data are compared for spatial and temporal similarities at different aggregations to identify a spatial scale at which most of the observations provide equivalent results. The results of the analysis indicate that the datasets show high temporal correlation with each other (0.5/0.6) when aggregating the data at resolution of at least 1.0º or at NUTS3 level. However, burned area estimates vary widely between datasets. Filtering out satellite fires located on urban and crop land cover classes greatly improves the agreement with EFFIS data.

Finally, in spite of the differences found in the area estimates, the spatial pattern is similar for all the datasets, with spatial correlation increasing as the resolution decreases. Also, the general reasonable agreement between satellite products builds confidence in using these datasets and in particular the most-recent developed dataset, FireCCI51, shows the best agreement with EFFIS overall. As a result, the main conclusion of the study is that users should carefully consider the limitations of the satellite fire estimates currently available, as their uncertainties cannot be neglected in the overall uncertainty estimate/cascade that should accompany global or regional change studies and that removing fires on human-dominated land areas is key to analyze forest fires estimation from satellite products.