The 500-m Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) burned area products, MCD45A1, MCD64A1, and a merged product were validated across six study sites in South Africa using independently-derived Landsat burned-area reference data during the fire season of 2007. The objectives of this study were to: (i) investigate the likelihood of the improved detection of small burns through an empirically-derived merged product; (ii) quantify the probability of detection by each product using sub-pixel burned area measures; and, (iii) compare the mean percent concurrence of burned pixels between the standard products over a ten-year time series in each site. Results show that MCD45A1 presented higher detection probabilities (i.e., 3.0%–37.9%) for small fractions ≤50%, whereas MCD64A1 appeared more reliable (i.e., 12.0%–89.2%) in detecting large fractions >50% of a burned MODIS pixel, respectively. Overall, the merged product demonstrated improved detection of the burned area in all fractions. This paper also demonstrates that, on average, >50% of MODIS burned pixels temporally concur between the MCD45A1 and MCD64A1 products in each site. These findings have significant
implications for fire monitoring in southern Africa and contribute toward the understanding
of the range and of the sources of errors present in the MODIS burned area products.