EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Evidence for a stronger global impact of fire on atmospheric composition

James Randerson1, Yang Chen1, Li Xu1, Joanne Hall2, Louis Giglio2, Dave van Wees3, Sander Veraverbeke3, Guido van der Werf3, Douglas Morton4, Elizabeth Wiggins5, Niels Andela6, and Stijn Hantson7
James Randerson et al.
  • 1Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, USA
  • 2Geography Department, University of Maryland, College Park, USA
  • 3Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 4Biospheric Sciences Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, USA
  • 5NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, USA
  • 6School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
  • 7Universidad del Rosario, Bogota, Columbia

Toward the development of the 5th generation of the Global Fire Emission Database (GFED5), we provide evidence for a significantly higher level of contemporary global fire emissions than what has been reported in previous inventories, as a result of advances in our understanding of burned area, fuel consumption, and emission factors. Increases in the availability of high-resolution burned area datasets from Sentinel and Landsat now allow for more effective estimation of fire scars associated with small and discontinuous fires in many biomes. By combining these regional-scale datasets with burned area and active fire observations from MODIS, we estimate that global burned area exceeded 700 Mha per year during 2001-2020. This estimate is more than 40% higher than previous estimates from GFED4 with small fires (GFED4s), mostly as a consequence of increases in savanna and grassland burning across Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. At the same time, more extensive field observations in boreal forest ecosystems provide evidence for higher levels of fuel consumption than has been integrated into previous regional and global inventories. New emission factor observations from tropical peatlands and boreal forests provide evidence for a stronger smoldering phase of emissions, elevating emissions of carbon monoxide and organic carbon aerosol. Together, these advances suggest the impact of contemporary wildfires may have been underestimated in past work; we conclude by exploring the compatibility of this inventory with atmospheric aerosol and trace gas observations using a global atmospheric chemistry model.

How to cite: Randerson, J., Chen, Y., Xu, L., Hall, J., Giglio, L., van Wees, D., Veraverbeke, S., van der Werf, G., Morton, D., Wiggins, E., Andela, N., and Hantson, S.: Evidence for a stronger global impact of fire on atmospheric composition, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-12015,, 2022.