Burned Area Detection and Mapping: Intercomparison of Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 Based Algorithms over Tropical Africa

A new article has been published in Remote Sensing, comparing different algorithms for burned area detection based on Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2.

This study provides a comparative analysis of two Sentinel-1 and one Sentinel-2 burned area (BA) detection and mapping algorithms over 10 test sites (100 × 100 km) in tropical and sub-tropical Africa. Depending on the site, the burned area was mapped at different time points during the 2015–2016 fire seasons. The algorithms relied on diverse burned area (BA) mapping strategies regarding the data used (i.e., surface reflectance, backscatter coefficient, interferometric coherence) and the detection method. Algorithm performance was compared by evaluating the detected BA agreement with reference fire perimeters independently derived from medium resolution optical imagery (i.e., Landsat 8, Sentinel-2). The commission (CE) and omission errors (OE), as well as the Dice coefficient (DC) for burned pixels, were compared. The mean OE and CE were 33% and 31% for the optical-based Sentinel-2 time-series algorithm and increased to 66% and 36%, respectively, for the radar backscatter coefficient-based algorithm. For the coherence based radar algorithm, OE and CE reached 72% and 57%, respectively. When considering all tiles, the optical-based algorithm provided a significant increase in agreement over the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) based algorithms that might have been boosted by the use of optical datasets when generating the reference fire perimeters. The analysis suggested that optical-based algorithms provide for a significant increase in accuracy over the radar-based algorithms. However, in regions with persistent cloud cover, the radar sensors may provide a complementary data source for wall to wall BA detection.