Mapping burned areas in tropical forests using a novel machine learning framework

Varun Mithal, Guruprasad Nayak, Ankush Khandelwal, Vipin Kumar, Ramakrishna Nemani, Nikunj C. Oza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

This paper presents an application of a novel machine-learning framework on MODIS (moderate-resolution imaging spectroradiometer) data to map burned areas over tropical forests of South America and South-east Asia. The RAPT (RAre Class Prediction in the absence of True labels) framework is able to build data adaptive classification models using noisy training labels. It is particularly suitable when expert annotated training samples are difficult to obtain as in the case of wild fires in the tropics. This framework has been used to build burned area maps from MODIS surface reflectance data as features and Active Fire hotspots as training labels that are known to have high commission and omission errors due to the prevalence of cloud cover and smoke, especially in the tropics. Using the RAPT framework we report burned areas for 16 MODIS tiles from 2001 to 2014. The total burned area detected in the tropical forests of South America and South-east Asia during these years is 2,071,378 MODIS (500 m) pixels (approximately 520 K sq. km.), which is almost three times compared to the estimates from collection 5 MODIS MCD64A1 (783,468 MODIS pixels). An evaluation using Landsat-based reference burned area maps indicates that our product has an average user's accuracy of 53% and producer's accuracy of 55% while collection 5 MCD64A1 burned area product has an average user's accuracy of 61% and producer's accuracy of 27%. Our analysis also indicates that the two products can be complimentary and a combination of the two approaches is likely to provide a more comprehensive assessment of tropical fires. Finally, we have created a publicly accessible web-based viewer that helps the community to visualize the burned area maps produced using RAPT and examine various validation sources corresponding to every detected MODIS pixel.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number69
JournalRemote Sensing
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by the University of Minnesota Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, National Science Foundation under Grants IIS-1029711 and NASA grant NNX12AP37G. Access to computing facilities was provided by the University of Minnesota Supercomputing Institute and NASA Earth Exchange (NEX)

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments: This research was supported in part by the University of Minnesota Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, National Science Foundation under Grants IIS-1029711 and NASA grant NNX12AP37G. Access to computing facilities was provided by the University of Minnesota Supercomputing Institute and NASA Earth Exchange (NEX).

Keywords

  • Burned area mapping
  • MODIS
  • Machine learning
  • Tropical forests

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