CAMS contribution to estimate the largest fire carbon emissions over Southeast Asia since 1997

CAMS contribution to estimate the largest fire carbon emissions over Southeast Asia since 1997

07 June 2016

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Indonesia —  Last year’s extensive forest and peatland fires over large parts of maritime Southeast Asia, most notably Indonesia, contributed approximately 77% of the global total fire emissions of CO2. In collaboration with CAMS scientists Johannes Flemming, Mark Parrington and Antje Inness, a Nature Scientific Report has been published recently on the contribution of the Indonesian fires during September and October 2015 to the total atmospheric CO2 burden. The report estimated that 692 million tonnes of CO2 were emitted by the region’s forest fires over the two months which is comparable to the UK’s total CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning for 2013.

In September and October 2015 the forest fires in Southeast Asia were the most extensive experienced in the region since the last major El Niño year of 1997, with high levels of smoke and haze affecting millions of people’s lives. These fires, originally started for land clearing, burned in peatlands with increased dryness and susceptibility to fire associated with drainage for agriculture and enhanced by the strong El Nino. The peatland fires burned underground for several weeks with the dry conditions causing them to spread much wider than their intended areas.

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) has been tracking the widely reported forest fires based on MODIS satellite observations, providing freely available daily estimates of fire emissions through the CAMS Global Fire Assimilation Service (GFAS). The research, described in details in the Nature Scientific Report, estimated a regional total carbon emission of 692 million tonnes for the 2015 fires through the use of present-day satellite observations of the fire’s radiative power output (FRP) and atmospheric CO concentrations, processed using the modelling and assimilation framework of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (Global Fire Assimilation System – GFAS) and combined with unique in situ smoke measurements made on the island of Kalimantan.

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