The Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity (MTBS) project is a joint effort between the U.S. Forest Service Geospatial Technology and Application Center and the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center. MTBS is tasked with mapping perimeters and estimating the burn severity of fires greater than 200 hectares in the eastern U.S. and 400 hectares in the western U.S., AK, HI, and Puerto Rico, utilizing Landsat imagery. Generally, MTBS maps fires one year after they have occurred (e.g., 2015 fires were mapped in 2016). During the past year, a total of 1,386 fires have been mapped. This year an additional 1,756 historical fires (1984–2014) have also been reviewed, but determined to be unmappable (i.e., no visible fire scar in Landsat imagery), as part of the MTBS program. An additional four fires (historical and current) were mapped as special requests for the National Park Service. Although not officially part of the MTBS project, 750 fires were also mapped as part of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funded project to map all fires greater than 10 hectares on their lands.
During the past year, USGS EROS has also worked on a NASA-funded grant (NASA Applied Sciences Program- Wildfires: Project NNH12AU71I; Utilization of Multi-Sensor Active Fire Detections to Map Fires in the US) to develop a web mapping service (WMS) to host satellite fire detections that are part of the NOAA Hazard Mapping System (HMS) http://www.ospo.noaa.gov/Products/land/hms.html fire products. The WMS will allow any user to bring geospatial HMS data into QGIS, a free and open-source cross-platform desktop geographic information system, to determine the location of potential fires. Additionally, a tool has been created in QGIS that replicates much of the MTBS fire mapping procedures. This tool allows users to 1) search the Landsat archive for scenes, 2) download top-of-atmosphere corrected Landsat imagery, 3) create Normalized Burn Ratio imagery, 4) create differenced Normalized Burn Ratio (dNBR) imagery, 5) map fire perimeters, 6) clip all imagery to fire perimeter extent, 7) create Relativized dNBR imagery, 8) create thresholded burn severity image, and 9) create metadata. These data and tools provide critical information to guide wildfire management activities in the Nation.
Example of the fire mapping process using satellite sensor detections to identify a fire and the subsequent fire mapping steps within the fire mapping QGIS tool.