AN APPROACH TO ESTIMATE GLOBAL BIOMASS BURNING EMISSIONS OF ORGANIC AND BLACK CARBON FROM MODIS FIRE RADIATIVE POWER
Ellicott, Evan Andrew
Justice, Christopher O
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Biomass burning is an important global phenomenon affecting atmospheric composition with significant implications for climatic forcing. Wildland fire is the main global source of fine primary carbonaceous aerosols in the form of organic carbon (OC) and black carbon (BC), but uncertainty in aerosol emission estimates from biomass burning is still rather large. Application of satellite based measures of fire radiative power (FRP) has been demonstrated to offer an alternative approach to estimate biomass consumed with the potential to estimate the associated emissions from fires. To date, though, no study has derived integrated FRP (referred to as fire radiative energy or FRE) at a global scale, in part due to limitations in temporal or spatial resolution of satellite sensors. The main objective of this research was to quantify global biomass burning emissions of organic and black carbon aerosols and the corresponding effect on planetary radiative forcing. The approach is based on the geophysical relationship between the flux of FRE emitted, biomass consumed, and aerosol emissions. Aqua and Terra MODIS observations were used to estimate FRE using a simple model to parameterize the fire diurnal cycle based on the long term ratio between Terra and Aqua MODIS FRP and cases of diurnal satellite measurements of FRP made by the geostationary sensor SEVIRI, precessing sensor VIRS, and high latitude (and thus high overpass frequency) observations by MODIS. Investigation of the atmospheric attenuation of MODIS channels using a parametric model based on the MODTRAN radiative transfer model indicates a small bias in FRE estimates which was accounted for. Accuracy assessment shows that the FRE estimates are precise (R<super>2</super> = 0.85), but may be underestimated. Global estimates of FRE show that Africa and South America dominate biomass burning, accounting for nearly 70% of the annual FRE generated. The relationship between FRE and OCBC estimates made with a new MODIS-derived inversion product of daily integrated biomass burning aerosol emissions was explored. The slope of the relationship within each of several biomes yielded a FRE-based emission factor. The biome specific emission factors and FRE monthly data were used to estimate OCBC emissions from fires on a global basis for 2001 to 2007. The annual average was 17.23 Tg which was comparable to previously published values, but slightly lower. The result in terms of global radiative forcing suggests a cooling effect at both the top-of-atmosphere (TOA) and surface approaching almost -0.5 K which implies that biomass burning aerosols could dampen the warming effect of green house gas emissions. An error budget was developed to explore the sources and total uncertainty in the OCBC estimation. The results yielded an uncertainty value of 58% with specific components of the process warranting future consideration and improvement. The uncertainty estimate does not demonstrate a significant improvement over current methods to estimate biomass burning aerosols, but given the simplicity of the approach should allow for refinements to be made with relative ease.