Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity Program Celebrates 15 Years of Operational Wildfire Mapping

Submitted by atripp on

The Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity (MTBS) Program is a joint effort between the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center and the U.S. Forest Service Geospatial Technology and Applications Center (GTAC). The program started in 2005 with a charter to map all large wildfires in the U.S. from 1984 to the present. After 15 years, MTBS continues to provide definitive wildfire perimeters and assessments of burn severity for all fires greater than 500 acres in the eastern U.S. and 1,000 acres in the western U.S. More than 23,000 fires have been mapped between 1984 and 2018, accounting for nearly 127 million acres burned across all 50 States and Puerto Rico.

Major improvements have been made in the past several years to the MTBS data processing infrastructure to increase consistency and capability of MTBS mapping between the two agencies. All MTBS analysts from both EROS and GTAC are now able to utilize virtual computing systems hosted by the EROS team, enabling cross-center coordination and tighter integration of both mapping teams. Additional work is ongoing to update the mapping software and backend tools to further streamline the MTBS mapping process and reduce the time necessary to complete annual mapping updates.

The MTBS web team is also developing a new burn severity mapping portal that will serve as a one-stop location for distributing burn severity data. This portal will make data available from numerous burn severity mapping programs within the USGS, the U.S. Forest Service, and others. The portal will include fires below the MTBS size threshold that are mapped by the MTBS program for other agencies  and are therefore not available through the MTBS website, along with ground-based Composite Burn Index point data that have been used to validate MTBS products through the years.

MTBS data product showing the 2018 Ranch Fire.


Author Name
Kurtis Nelson
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