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How well does the ‘small fire boost’ methodology used within the GFED4.1s fire emissions database allow it to represent the timing, location and magnitude of agricultural burning?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Issue number6
Early online date25 May 2018
Accepted/In press18 May 2018
E-pub ahead of print25 May 2018
PublishedJun 2018


King's Authors


The Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED) – currently by far the most widely used global fire emissions inventory - is primarily driven by the 500 m MODIS MCD64A1 burned area (BA) product. This product is unable to detect many smaller fires, and the new v4.1s of GFED addresses this deficiency using a ‘small fire boost’ (SFB) methodology that estimates ‘small fire’ burned area from MODIS active fire (AF) detections. We evaluate the performance of this approach in two globally significant agricultural burning regions dominated by small fires, eastern China and north-western India. We find the GFED4.1s SFB can affect the burned area and fire emissions data reported by GFED very significantly, and the approach shows some potential for reducing low biases in GFED’s fire emissions estimates of agricultural burning regions. However, it also introduces several significant errors. In north-western India, the SFB improves the temporal record of agricultural burning, but the magnitude of the additional burned area added by the SFB is far too low. In eastern China, the SFB appears to have some positive effects on the magnitude of agricultural burning reported in June and Oct, but significant errors are introduced in the summer months via false alarms in the MODIS AF product. This leads through the SFB approach to the presence in GFED4.1s of a completely inaccurate ‘August’ burning period, where falsely created fires are erroneously stated to be responsible for roughly the same amount of dry matter fuel consumption as fires in June and October. Even without the SFB, we also find problems with some of the burns detected by the MCD64A1 burned area product in these agricultural regions. Overall, we conclude that the SFB methodology requires further optimisation and that the efficacy of GFED4.1s’ ‘boosted’ BA and resulting fire emissions estimates require careful consideration by users focusing in areas where small fires dominate.

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