Satellite remote sensing of biomass burning with optical and thermal sensors

D. O. Fuller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


A major goal in satellite remote sensing of fire is to derive globally accurate measurements of the spatial and temporal distribution of burning. To date, the main sensor employed in fire and fire-scar detection has been the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) on board NOAA polar-orbiting platforms. Other sources supporting fire observation over large areas include the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program - Optical Linescan (DMSP-OLS), the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite - 8 (GOES-8) and the Along Track Scanning Radiometer (ATSR). These sources have often been used in conjunction with high spatial- resolution imagery provided by the Landsat Thematic Mapper and SPOT to assess the accuracy of proposed fire and fire-scar retrieval algorithms. Although a range of fire detection algorithms have been proposed based on more than a decade of research on the AVHRR data, it remains to be seen whether variations in land-cover type, surface temperature and fire regimes will permit application of global thresholds of temperature and reflectance. Moreover, the emerging set of satellite sensors with demonstrated utility in fire monitoring indicates substantial possibilities for greater synergy of current and future remote-sensing systems leading to improved monitoring of fire extent and frequency. As a more complete global picture of biomass burning emerges with the launch of new sensors for fire monitoring (e.g., MODIS), this information, combined with detailed data from field experiments, can help provide reliable budgets of trace gases and particulate species that affect global energy balance and climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)543-561
Number of pages19
JournalProgress in Physical Geography
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Active fires
  • Earth-observation satellites
  • Fire scars
  • Trace-gas emissions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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