Charles Ichoku - 613 Seminar Series

NASA/GSFC
Wildfires and other types of open biomass burning represent one of the most ubiquitous disturbances to vegetated land ecosystems; releasing tremendous amounts of trace gases (carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, etc.) and carbonaceous aerosol particles (black carbon, organic carbon) that affect the environment, air quality, the water cycle, and climate. For instance, open biomass burning is estimated to contribute about 2,800 Gg/yr (~37%) of the total global black carbon (BC) emissions (7,500 Gg/yr), with the remaining 63% coming from energy-related burning. In addition, open biomass burning is estimated to produce about 31,000 Gg/yr of primary organic aerosols (POA) globally compared to only 16,000 Gg/yr from energy-related burning. These estimates are however associated with very large uncertainties, which are highest for open biomass burning. The large uncertainties stem from the inherent difficulty in quantifying these emissions by traditional methods and representing them accurately in earth system models. Satellite remote sensing has become an indispensable technique for characterizing open fires and their smoke emissions, especially at regional to global scales, because of the transient and widespread nature of fires. By establishing a direct relationship between the fire radiative energy release (FRE) and the emission of aerosol particulate matter, both of which are observed from satellite, we have been able to develop the first version of the Fire Energetics and Emissions Research (FEER.v1) global smoke aerosol emissions dataset (http://feer.gsfc.nasa.gov/). This FEER.v1 gridded global product has been implemented in the community WRF-Chem fully-coupled meteorology-chemistry-aerosol model simulations in Northern sub-Saharan Africa. The results reveal that FRE-based emissions are able to capture some important regional smoke distribution patterns that may not be adequately represented by using other major emissions inventories, when compared to satellite aerosol retrievals. Thus, we will discuss the potential of addressing the current large uncertainties in biomass burning emissions by utilizing such top-down approaches based on satellite measurements.