Articles | Volume 10, issue 5
08 Mar 2010
 | 08 Mar 2010

Estimates of biomass burning emissions in tropical Asia based on satellite-derived data

D. Chang and Y. Song

Abstract. Biomass burning in tropical Asia emits large amounts of trace gases and particulate matter into the atmosphere, which has significant implications for atmospheric chemistry and climatic change. In this study, emissions from open biomass burning over tropical Asia were evaluated during seven fire years from 2000 to 2006 (1 March 2000–31 February 2007). The size of the burned areas was estimated from newly published 1-km L3JRC and 500-m MODIS burned area products (MCD45A1). Available fuel loads and emission factors were assigned to each vegetation type in a GlobCover characterisation map, and fuel moisture content was taken into account when calculating combustion factors. Over the whole period, both burned areas and fire emissions showed clear spatial and seasonal variations. The size of the L3JRC burned areas ranged from 36 031 km2 in fire year 2005 to 52 303 km2 in 2001, and the MCD45A1 burned areas ranged from 54 790 km2 in fire year 2001 to 148 967 km2 in 2004. Comparisons of L3JRC and MCD45A1 burned areas using ground-based measurements and other satellite data were made in several major burning regions, and the results suggest that MCD45A1 generally performed better than L3JRC, although with a certain degree of underestimation in forest areas. The average annual L3JRC-based emissions were 123 (102–152), 12 (9–15), 1.0 (0.7–1.3), 1.9 (1.4–2.6), 0.11 (0.09–0.12), 0.89 (0.63–1.21), 0.043 (0.036–0.053), 0.021 (0.021–0.023), 0.41 (0.34–0.52), 3.4 (2.6–4.3), and 3.6 (2.8–4.7) Tg yr−1 for CO2, CO, CH4, NMHCs, NOx, NH3, SO2, BC, OC, PM2.5, and PM10, respectively, whereas MCD45A1-based emissions were 122 (108–144), 9.3 (7.7–11.7), 0.63 (0.46–0.86), 1.1 (0.8–1.6), 0.11 (0.10–0.13), 0.54 (0.38–0.76), 0.043 (0.038–0.051), 0.033 (0.032–0.037), 0.39 (0.34–0.47), 3.0 (2.6–3.7), and 3.3 (2.8–4.0) Tg yr−1. Forest burning was identified as the major source of the fire emissions due to its high carbon density. Although agricultural burning was the second highest contributor, it is possible that some crop residue combustion was missed by satellite observations. This possibility is supported by comparisons with previously published data, and this result may be due to the small size of the field crop residue burning. Fire emissions were mainly concentrated in Indonesia, India, Myanmar, and Cambodia. Furthermore, the peak in the size of the burned area was generally found in the early fire season, whereas the maximum fire emissions often occurred in the late fire season.

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