Mitigating Satellite-Based Fire Sampling Limitations in Deriving Biomass...

Wang, J., Y. Yue, Y. Wang, C. Ichoku, L. Ellison, and J. Zeng (2018), Mitigating Satellite-Based Fire Sampling Limitations in Deriving Biomass Burning Emission Rates: Application to WRF-Chem Model Over the Northern sub-Saharan African Region, J. Geophys. Res., 123, 507-528.

Largely used in several independent estimates of fire emissions, fire products based on MODIS sensors aboard the Terra and Aqua polar-orbiting satellites have a number of inherent limitations, including (a) inability to detect fires below clouds, (b) significant decrease of detection sensitivity at the edge of scan where pixel sizes are much larger than at nadir, and (c) gaps between adjacent swaths in tropical regions. To remedy these limitations, an empirical method is developed here and applied to correct fire emission estimates based on MODIS pixel level fire radiative power measurements and emission coefficients from the Fire Energetics and Emissions Research (FEER) biomass burning emission inventory. The analysis was performed for January 2010 over the northern sub-Saharan African region. Simulations from WRF-Chem model using original and adjusted emissions are compared with the aerosol optical depth (AOD) products from MODIS and AERONET as well as aerosol vertical profile from CALIOP data. The comparison confirmed an 30–50% improvement in the model simulation performance (in terms of correlation, bias, and spatial pattern of AOD with respect to observations) by the adjusted emissions that not only increases the original emission amount by a factor of two but also results in the spatially continuous estimates of instantaneous fire emissions at daily time scales. Such improvement cannot be achieved by simply scaling the original emission across the study domain. Even with this improvement, a factor of two underestimations still exists in the modeled AOD, which is within the current global fire emissions uncertainty envelope. Plain Language Summary Polar-orbiting satellites sensors, such as MODIS, have limitations in detecting fires under clouds or when viewing angles are large or in the gaps among satellites’ different ground swaths. Here we developed an empirical method to mitigate the effect of these limitations in fire emission estimate. The method is applied to a fire emission inventory (FEER) based on MODIS. We show that, with our method, the adjusted emission inventory improves WRF-Chem simulation of smoke transport and distribution.

Research Program: 
Interdisciplinary Science Program (IDS)
Atmospheric Composition
Atmospheric Composition Modeling and Analysis Program (ACMAP)
Radiation Science Program (RSP)