Trends in eastern China agricultural fire emissions derived from a combination of geostationary (Himawari) and polar (VIIRS) orbiter fire radiative power products

Tianran Zhang*, Mark C. De Jong, Martin J. Wooster, Weidong Xu, Lili Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Open burning of agricultural crop residues is widespread across eastern China, and during certain post-harvest periods this activity is believed to significantly influence air quality.However, the exact contribution of crop residue burning to major air quality exceedances and air quality episodes has proven difficult to quantify. Whilst highly successful in many regions, in areasdominated by agricultural burning, MODIS-based (MODIS: Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) fire emissions inventories such as the Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS) and Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED) are suspected of significantly underestimating the magnitude of biomass burning emissions due to the typically very small, but highly numerous, fires involved that are quite easily missed by coarser-spatial-resolution remote sensing observations. To address this issue, we use twice-daily fire radiative power (FRP) observations from the "small-fire-optimised"VIIRS-IM FRP product and combine them with fire diurnal cycle information taken from the geostationary Himawari-8 satellite. Using this we generate a unique high-spatio-temporal-resolution agricultural burning inventory for eastern China for the years 2012-2015, designed to fully take into accountsmall fires well below the MODIS burned area or active fire detection limit, focusing on dry matterburned (DMB) and emissions of CO2, CO, PM 2.5, and black carbon. We calculate DMB totals 100% to 400% higher than reported by the GFAS and GFED4.1s, and we quantify interesting spatial and temporal patterns previously un-noted. Wheat residue burning, primarily occurring in May-June, is responsible for more than half of the annual crop residue burning emissions of all species, whilst a secondary peak in autumn (September-October) is associated with rice and corn residue burning. We further identify a new winter (November-December) burning season, hypothesised to be caused by delays in burning drivenby the stronger implementation of residue burning bans during the autumn post-harvest season. Whilst our emissions estimates are far higher than those of other satellite-based emissions inventories for the region, they are lower than estimates made using traditional "crop-yield-based approaches"(CYBAs) by a factor of between 2 and 5. We believe that this is at least in part caused by outdated and overly high burning ratios being used in the CYBA, leading to the overestimation of DMB. Therefore, we conclude that satellite remote sensing approaches which adequately detect the presence of agricultural fires are a far better approach to agricultural fire emission estimation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10687-10705
Number of pages19
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2020


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