Understanding agricultural fire dynamics in the southern Yucatán Peninsular Region using the MODIS (C6) active fire product

Andrew Pagan, John Rogan, Birgit Schmook, Zachary Christman, Florencia Sangermano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Smallholder farmers commonly use fire for land clearing and agricultural maintenance in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. The southern Yucatán Peninsular Region (SYPR) has experienced increasing fire frequency since the 1960s due to expanding smallholder agriculture and recurrent droughts. Beginning in January 2019, a government-subsidized programme named Sembrando Vida encouraged further smallholder agricultural development throughout Mexico, resulting in increased burning for cropland preparation. This study uses the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Collection 6 1 km Active Fire product to characterize agricultural burning trends in the SYPR between 2010 and 2019, focusing on the impacts of the Sembrando Vida programme. Comparison of MODIS Active Fire locations to visible agricultural burns in coincident Landsat imagery showed a 29.5% (21/71) agreement. MODIS Active Fire time series data exhibited a biennial trend in fire frequency that was caused by interannual rainfall variability. An inverse relationship was found between total rainfall in the burning season and annual fire frequency. A combination of low rainfall and the implementation of Sembrando Vida in 2019 caused a 98% increase in state-authorized burn permitting compared to the 2015–2018 average, and MODIS Active Fire data exhibited a 33% increase in agricultural burns in 2019 compared to previous years that had >1000 fires.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)715-726
Number of pages12
JournalRemote Sensing Letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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