Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 10, 23559-23599, 2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
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This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in ACP.
Spatial and temporal variability in the ratio of trace gases emitted from biomass burning
T. T. van Leeuwen and G. R. van der Werf
VU University Amsterdam, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, Department of Hydrology and Geo-environmental Sciences, The Netherlands

Abstract. Fires are a major source of trace gases and aerosols to the atmosphere. Quantitative knowledge on biomass burned is improving, most importantly due to new burned area datasets. The partitioning of biomass burned into emitted trace gases and aerosols, however, has received relatively little attention. To convert estimates of biomass burned to trace gas and aerosol emissions, most studies have used emission ratios (or emission factors (EFs)) based on the arithmetic mean of field measurement outcomes, stratified by biome. However, EFs vary substantially in time and space, even within a single biome. In addition, it is unknown whether the measurement locations provide a representative sample for the various biomes. Here we used the available body of EF literature in combination with satellite-derived information on vegetation characteristics and climatic conditions to better understand the spatio-temporal variability in EFs. While focusing on CO, CH4, and CO2, our findings are also applicable to other trace gases and aerosols. We explored relations between EFs and different satellite datasets thought to drive part of the variability in EFs (tree cover density, vegetation greenness, temperature, precipitation, and the length of the dry season). Although reasonable correlations were found for specific case studies, correlations based on the full suite of available measurements were less satisfying (rmax=0.62). This may be partly due to uncertainties in the driver datasets, differences in measurement techniques, assumptions on the ratio between flaming and smoldering combustion, and incomplete information on the location and timing of measurements. We derived new mean EFs, using the relative importance of each measurement location with regard to the amount of biomass burned. These weighted averages were within 18% of the arithmetic mean. We argue that from a global modeling perspective, future measurement campaigns could be more beneficial if measurements are made over the full fire season, or alternatively if relations between ambient conditions and EFs receive more attention.

Citation: van Leeuwen, T. T. and van der Werf, G. R.: Spatial and temporal variability in the ratio of trace gases emitted from biomass burning, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 10, 23559-23599, doi:10.5194/acpd-10-23559-2010, 2010.
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