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Published December 24, 2011 | Published
Journal Article Open

Daily and 3‐hourly variability in global fire emissions and consequences for atmospheric model predictions of carbon monoxide


Attribution of the causes of atmospheric trace gas and aerosol variability often requires the use of high resolution time series of anthropogenic and natural emissions inventories. Here we developed an approach for representing synoptic- and diurnal-scale temporal variability in fire emissions for the Global Fire Emissions Database version 3 (GFED3). We disaggregated monthly GFED3 emissions during 2003–2009 to a daily time step using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)-derived measurements of active fires from Terra and Aqua satellites. In parallel, mean diurnal cycles were constructed from Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) Wildfire Automated Biomass Burning Algorithm (WF_ABBA) active fire observations. Daily variability in fires varied considerably across different biomes, with short but intense periods of daily emissions in boreal ecosystems and lower intensity (but more continuous) periods of burning in savannas. These patterns were consistent with earlier field and modeling work characterizing fire behavior dynamics in different ecosystems. On diurnal timescales, our analysis of the GOES WF_ABBA active fires indicated that fires in savannas, grasslands, and croplands occurred earlier in the day as compared to fires in nearby forests. Comparison with Total Carbon Column Observing Network (TCCON) and Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere (MOPITT) column CO observations provided evidence that including daily variability in emissions moderately improved atmospheric model simulations, particularly during the fire season and near regions with high levels of biomass burning. The high temporal resolution estimates of fire emissions developed here may ultimately reduce uncertainties related to fire contributions to atmospheric trace gases and aerosols. Important future directions include reconciling top-down and bottom up estimates of fire radiative power and integrating burned area and active fire time series from multiple satellite sensors to improve daily emissions estimates.

Additional Information

© 2011 the American Geophysical Union. Received 12 May 2011; revised 23 September 2011; accepted 18 October 2011; published 24 December 2011. This research was supported by NASA grants NNX08AF64G and NNX10AT83G and the EU Seventh Research Framework Programme (MACC project, contract 218793). The time series described here is publicly available on the Global Fire Emissions Database server (www.globalfiredata.org). We thank E. Lyons for contributing to the development of the daily fire emissions time series. E. J. Hyer and E. Prins acknowledge support from the NASA Interdisciplinary Studies Program. U.S. funding for TCCON comes from NASA's Terrestrial Ecology Program (NNX08A186G), the Orbiting Carbon Observatory Program (NAS7–03001), the DOE/ARM Program and the Atmospheric CO2 Observations from Space Program. Some of the research described in this paper was performed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Lauder TCCON measurements were funded by New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology contracts CO1X0204 and CO1X0406. We thank B. Connor and J. Robinson for their contributions to the Lauder CO time series.

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