Remote-sensing and ground-based data were linked through an Internet computer system and used to estimate carbon emissions from wildfires across North America.
The North American Carbon Program is designed to resolve uncertainties in understanding and managing the carbon cycle of North America. As carbon modeling tools become more comprehensive and spatially oriented, accurate datasets to spatially quantify carbon emissions from fire are needed.
For this project, Dr. Nancy French of the Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI) extended her NASA New Investigator Program-funded research to team up specialists at the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station’s Fire and Environmental Research Applications (FERA) team.
The FERA team provided information for mapping fire-derived carbon emissions by adapting existing Forest Service fire information products and tools using NASA data and products.
The project had two components:
The U.S. Forest Service developed the Fuel Characteristic Classification System (FCCS), to describe fire fuels across North America, and Consume 3.0, a model for estimating fuel consumption and emissions. Intended primarily for applications of fire effects, these tools hold potential for quantifying carbon emissions to better understand the implications of fire to carbon cycling and carbon management.
The project built on PI French’s NASA new investigator program (NIP) used remote sensing for quantifying the variability in fuel consumption and develop FERA tools for use in quantifying regional to continental-scale fire emissions. Carbon assessment tools developed through the North American Carbon Program, such as Carbon Tracker, provided a context for development of datasets and methods for production of user-accessible information products.
The goal of the project was to develop a prototype information system with the help of user input for disseminating improved products for modeling and estimating fire emissions across North America. This was done by:
Fuel Characteristic Classification System (FCCS) fuelbeds have been incorporated into the Wildland Fire Emissions Information System (WFEIS).
FERA’s contribution to this research project improved the representation of canopy fuels in the existing 1-km Fuel Characteristic Classification System (FCCS) by using MODIS vegetation. The FCCS and Consume have been valuable for forest managers and are here being used to assess fuel consumption and emissions across broad spatial scales and serve out results as mapped spatial data. Running WFEIS allows fire researchers, forest and smoke managers, and atmospheric scientists to view how past fires have contributed to emissions that influence air quality and carbon cycling. The amount and location of emissions can be assessed and visualized using the output data created within WFEIS.