Articles | Volume 15, issue 15
Research article
12 Aug 2015
Research article |  | 12 Aug 2015

New fire diurnal cycle characterizations to improve fire radiative energy assessments made from MODIS observations

N. Andela, J. W. Kaiser, G. R. van der Werf, and M. J. Wooster

Abstract. Accurate near real time fire emissions estimates are required for air quality forecasts. To date, most approaches are based on satellite-derived estimates of fire radiative power (FRP), which can be converted to fire radiative energy (FRE) which is directly related to fire emissions. Uncertainties in these FRE estimates are often substantial. This is for a large part because the most often used low-Earth orbit satellite-based instruments such as the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) have a relatively poor sampling of the usually pronounced fire diurnal cycle. In this paper we explore the spatial variation of this fire diurnal cycle and its drivers using data from the geostationary Meteosat Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI). In addition, we sampled data from the SEVIRI instrument at MODIS detection opportunities to develop two approaches to estimate hourly FRE based on MODIS active fire detections. The first approach ignored the fire diurnal cycle, assuming persistent fire activity between two MODIS observations, while the second approach combined knowledge on the climatology of the fire diurnal cycle with active fire detections to estimate hourly FRE. The full SEVIRI time series, providing full coverage of the fire diurnal cycle, were used to evaluate the results. Our study period comprised of 3 years (2010–2012), and we focused on Africa and the Mediterranean basin to avoid the use of potentially lower quality SEVIRI data obtained at very far off-nadir view angles. We found that the fire diurnal cycle varies substantially over the study region, and depends on both fuel and weather conditions. For example, more "intense" fires characterized by a fire diurnal cycle with high peak fire activity, long duration over the day, and with nighttime fire activity are most common in areas of large fire size (i.e., large burned area per fire event). These areas are most prevalent in relatively arid regions. Ignoring the fire diurnal cycle generally resulted in an overestimation of FRE, while including information on the climatology of the fire diurnal cycle improved FRE estimates. The approach based on knowledge of the climatology of the fire diurnal cycle also improved distribution of FRE over the day, although only when aggregating model results to coarser spatial and/or temporal scale good correlation was found with the full SEVIRI hourly reference data set. We recommend the use of regionally varying fire diurnal cycle information within the Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS) used in the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Services, which will improve FRE estimates and may allow for further reconciliation of biomass burning emission estimates from different inventories.

Short summary
The polar orbiting MODIS instruments provide four daily observations of the fire diurnal cycle, resulting in erroneous fire radiative energy (FRE) estimates. Using geostationary SEVIRI data, we explore the fire diurnal cycle and its drivers for Africa to develop a new method to estimate global FRE in near real-time using MODIS. The fire diurnal cycle varied with climate and vegetation type, and including information on the fire diurnal cycle in the model significantly improved the FRE estimates.
Final-revised paper