Burning crop residue before and/or after harvest is a common farming practice however; there is no baseline estimate for cropland burned area in the contiguous U.S. (CONUS). We present the results of a study, using five years of remotely sensed satellite data to map the location and areal extent of crop residue burning in the CONUS. Our burned area approach combines 500 m Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Normalized Burn Ratio (dNBR) data, with 1 km MODIS active fire counts calibrated using coincident high resolution satellite data to generate area estimates. Our results show that cropland burning is an extensive and recurring annual event in several states in the CONUS. On average, 1,239,000 ha of croplands burn annually, which is equivalent to 43% of the annual average area of wildland fires in the U.S., as reported by the United States Forest Service for the same period. Several states experience high levels (>30,000 ha yr-1) of crop residue burning, including Arkansas. California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, and Washington. Validation with high resolution burn scar imagery and GPS data collected during targeted field campaigns showed a moderate to high-level accuracy for our burned area estimates, ranging from 78 to 90%. Our approach provides a more consistent methodology for quantifying cropland burned area at regional scales than the previously available U.S. National and state-level statistics on crop residue burning. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.