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Improving Nocturnal Fire Detection with the VIIRS Day-Night BandBuilding on existing techniques for satellite remote sensing of fires, this paper takes advantage of the day-night band (DNB) aboard the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) to develop the Firelight Detection Algorithm (FILDA), which characterizes fire pixels based on both visible-light and infrared (IR) signatures at night. By adjusting fire pixel selection criteria to include visible-light signatures, FILDA allows for significantly improved detection of pixels with smaller and/or cooler subpixel hotspots than the operational Interface Data Processing System (IDPS) algorithm. VIIRS scenes with near-coincident Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection (ASTER) overpasses are examined after applying the operational VIIRS fire product algorithm and including a modified "candidate fire pixel selection" approach from FILDA that lowers the 4-μm brightness temperature (BT) threshold but includes a minimum DNB radiance. FILDA is shown to be effective in detecting gas flares and characterizing fire lines during large forest fires (such as the Rim Fire in California and High Park fire in Colorado). Compared with the operational VIIRS fire algorithm for the study period, FILDA shows a large increase (up to 90%) in the number of detected fire pixels that can be verified with the finer resolution ASTER data (90 m). Part (30%) of this increase is likely due to a combined use of DNB and lower 4-μm BT thresholds for fire detection in FILDA. Although further studies are needed, quantitative use of the DNB to improve fire detection could lead to reduced response times to wildfires and better estimate of fire characteristics (smoldering and flaming) at night.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Polivka, Thomas N.
(Nebraska Univ. Lincoln, NE, United States)
Wang, Jun
(Nebraska Univ. Lincoln, NE, United States)
Ellison, Luke T.
(Science Systems and Applications, Inc. Lanham, MD, United States)
Hyer, Edward J.
(Naval Research Lab. Monterey, CA, United States)
Ichoku, Charles M.
(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Date Acquired
December 6, 2016
Publication Date
September 1, 2016
Publication Information
Publication: IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Volume: 54
Issue: 9
ISSN: 0196-2892
Subject Category
Earth Resources And Remote Sensing
Report/Patent Number
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Day-night band
fire detection

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