Articles | Volume 6, issue 5
15 May 2009
 | 15 May 2009

Annual and diurnal african biomass burning temporal dynamics

G. Roberts, M. J. Wooster, and E. Lagoudakis

Abstract. Africa is the single largest continental source of biomass burning emissions. Here we conduct the first analysis of one full year of geostationary active fire detections and fire radiative power data recorded over Africa at 15-min temporal interval and a 3 km sub-satellite spatial resolution by the Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI) imaging radiometer onboard the Meteosat-8 satellite. We use these data to provide new insights into the rates and totals of open biomass burning over Africa, particularly into the extremely strong seasonal and diurnal cycles that exist across the continent. We estimate peak daily biomass combustion totals to be 9 and 6 million tonnes of fuel per day in the northern and southern hemispheres respectively, and total fuel consumption between February 2004 and January 2005 is estimated to be at least 855 million tonnes. Analysis is carried out with regard to fire pixel temporal persistence, and we note that the majority of African fires are detected only once in consecutive 15 min imaging slots. An investigation of the variability of the diurnal fire cycle is carried out with respect to 20 different land cover types, and whilst differences are noted between land covers, the fire diurnal cycle characteristics for most land cover type are very similar in both African hemispheres. We compare the Fire Radiative Power (FRP) derived biomass combustion estimates to burned-areas, both at the scale of individual fires and over the entire continent at a 1-degree scale. Fuel consumption estimates are found to be less than 2 kg/m2 for all land cover types noted to be subject to significant fire activity, and for savanna grasslands where literature values are commonly reported the FRP-derived median fuel consumption estimate of 300 g/m2 is well within commonly quoted values. Meteosat-derived FRP data of the type presented here is now available freely to interested users continuously and in near real-time for Africa, Europe and parts of South America via the EUMETSAT (European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites) Land Surface Analysis Satellite Applications Facility ( Continuous generation of these products will allow the types of analysis presented in this paper to be improved and extended, and such multi-year records should allow relationships between climate, fire and fuel to be further examined.

Final-revised paper