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Management and climate contributions to satellite-derived active fire trends in the contiguous United States

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      Abstract

      Fires in croplands, plantations, and rangelands contribute significantly to fire emissions in the United States, yet are often overshadowed by wildland fires in efforts to develop inventories or estimate responses to climate change. Here we quantified decadal trends, interannual variability, and seasonality of Terra Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) observations of active fires (thermal anomalies) as a function of management type in the contiguous U.S. during 2001–2010. We used the Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity database to identify active fires within the perimeter of large wildland fires and land cover maps to identify active fires in croplands. A third class of fires defined as prescribed/other included all residual satellite active fire detections. Large wildland fires were the most variable of all three fire types and had no significant annual trend in the contiguous U.S. during 2001–2010. Active fires in croplands, in contrast, increased at a rate of 3.4% per year. Cropland and prescribed/other fire types combined were responsible for 77% of the total active fire detections within the U.S and were most abundant in the south and southeast. In the west, cropland active fires decreased at a rate of 5.9% per year, likely in response to intensive air quality policies. Potential evaporation was a dominant regulator of the interannual variability of large wildland fires, but had a weaker influence on the other two fire types. Our analysis suggests it may be possible to modify landscape fire emissions within the U.S. by influencing the way fires are used in managed ecosystems.Key PointsWildland, cropland, and prescribed fires had different trends and patternsSensitivity to climate varied with fire typeIntensity of air quality regulation influenced cropland burning trends

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          Biomass burning in the tropics: impact on atmospheric chemistry and biogeochemical cycles.

          Biomass burning is widespread, especially in the tropics. It serves to clear land for shifting cultivation, to convert forests to agricultural and pastoral lands, and to remove dry vegetation in order to promote agricultural productivity and the growth of higher yield grasses. Furthermore, much agricultural waste and fuel wood is being combusted, particularly in developing countries. Biomass containing 2 to 5 petagrams of carbon is burned annually (1 petagram = 10(15) grams), producing large amounts of trace gases and aerosol particles that play important roles in atmospheric chemistry and climate. Emissions of carbon monoxide and methane by biomass burning affect the oxidation efficiency of the atmosphere by reacting with hydroxyl radicals, and emissions of nitric oxide and hydrocarbons lead to high ozone concentrations in the tropics during the dry season. Large quantities of smoke particles are produced as well, and these can serve as cloud condensation nuclei. These particles may thus substantially influence cloud microphysical and optical properties, an effect that could have repercussions for the radiation budget and the hydrological cycle in the tropics. Widespread burning may also disturb biogeochemical cycles, especially that of nitrogen. About 50 percent of the nitrogen in the biomass fuel can be released as molecular nitrogen. This pyrdenitrification process causes a sizable loss of fixed nitrogen in tropical ecosystems, in the range of 10 to 20 teragrams per year (1 teragram = 10(12) grams).
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]Department of Earth System Science, University of California Irvine, California, USA
            [2 ]Michigan Tech Research Institute Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
            [3 ]Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland College Park, Maryland, USA
            [4 ]Biospheric Sciences Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, Maryland, USA
            Author notes
            Correspondence to: H.-W. Lin, hwlin@ 123456uci.edu

            Management and climate contributions to satellite-derived active fire trends in the contiguous United States

            Journal
            J Geophys Res Biogeosci
            J Geophys Res Biogeosci
            jgrg
            Journal of Geophysical Research. Biogeosciences
            BlackWell Publishing Ltd (Oxford, UK )
            2169-8953
            2169-8961
            April 2014
            28 April 2014
            : 119
            : 4
            : 645-660
            4508926
            10.1002/2013JG002382
            ©2014. The Authors.

            This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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