Improved spatial resolution of bushfire detection with MODIS
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The capability to monitor bushfires on a large scale from space has long been identified as an important contribution to climate and atmospheric research as well as a tool an aid in natural hazard response. Since the work by Dozier (1981), fire monitoring from space has relied on the principles he described. His method of identifying fires within a pixel significantly larger than the fire by utilizing the different responses of the 3 μm and 11 μm channels has been applied to a number of sensors. Over the last decade a lot of work has been invested to refine and validate fire detections based on this approach. So far, the application of the method proposed by Dozier (1981) reached its peak with the launch of the MODIS instrument on board the Terra satellite. In contrast to earlier sensors, MODIS was equipped with spectral channels specifically designed for the detection of fires with algorithms based on the work by Dozier (1981). These channels were designed to overcome problems experienced with other platforms, the biggest of which is the saturation of the 3 μm channel caused by big, hot fires. Since its launch, MODIS has proven itself to be a capable platform to provide worldwide fire detection at a moderate resolution of 1 km on a daily basis.It is the intention of this work to open up new opportunities in remote sensing of fires from satellites by showing capabilities and limitations in the application of other spectral channels, in particular the 2.1 μm channel of MODIS, than the ones currently used. This channel is chosen for investigation as fires are expected to emit a significant amount of energy in this bandwidth and as it is available at a native resolution of 500 m on MODIS; double the resolution of the 3 μm and 11 μm channels. The modelling of blackbodies of typical bushfire temperatures shows that a fire detection method based on the 2.1 μm channel will not be able to replace the current methods. Blackbodies of temperatures around 600 to 700 K, that are common for smoldering fires, do not emit a great amount of energy at 2.1 μm. It would be hardly possible to detect those fires by utilizing the 2.1 μm channel. The established methods based on the 3 μm and 11 μm channels are expected to work better in these cases. Blackbodies of typically flaming fires (above 800 K) however show a very high emission around 2.1 μm that should make their detection using the 2.1 μm channel possible.In order to develop a fire detection method based on the 2.1 μm channel, it is necessary to differentiate between the radiance caused by a fire of sub pixel size and the radiance of a pixel caused by the reflection of sunlight. This is attempted by using time series of past observations to model a reflectance value for a given pixel expected in absence of a fire. A fire detection algorithm exploiting the difference between the expected and observed reflectance is implemented and its detection results are compared to high resolution ASTER fire maps, the standard MODIS fire detection algorithm (MOD14) and burnt area maps. The detections of the method based on the 2.1 μm channel are found to correspond very well with the other three datasets. However, the comparison showed detections that do not align with MOD14 active fire detections but are generally aligned with burn areas. This phenomena has to be investigated in the future.
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