Contiguous United States wildland fire emission estimates during 2003-2015
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Shawn P. Urbanski; Matt C. Reeves; Rachel E. Corley; Robin P. Silverstein; Wei Min Hao
Publication Year: 2018

Cataloging Information

  • air pollutants
  • burned area
  • MODIS - Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
  • MTBS - Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity
  • NDVI - Normalized Difference Vegetation Index
  • public health
  • wildfires
  • wildland fire
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 7, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 57982


Wildfires are a major source of air pollutants in the United States. Wildfire smoke can trigger severe pollution episodes with substantial impacts on public health. In addition to acute episodes, wildfires can have a marginal effect on air quality at significant distances from the source, presenting significant challenges to air regulators' efforts to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Improved emission estimates are needed to quantify the contribution of wildfires to air pollution and thereby inform decision-making activities related to the control and regulation of anthropogenic air pollution sources.

To address the need of air regulators and land managers for improved wildfire emission estimates, we developed the Missoula Fire Lab Emission Inventory (MFLEI), a retrospective, daily wildfire emission inventory for the contiguous United States (CONUS). MFLEI was produced using multiple datasets of fire activity and burned area, a newly developed wildland fuels map and an updated emission factor database. Daily burned area is based on a combination of Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity (MTBS) data, Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) burned area and active fire detection products, incident fire perimeters, and a spatial wildfire occurrence database. The fuel type classification map is a merger of a national forest type map, produced by the USDA Forest Service (USFS) Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program and the Geospatial Technology and Applications Center (GTAC), with a shrub and grassland vegetation map developed by the USFS Missoula Forestry Sciences Laboratory. Forest fuel loading is from a fuel classification developed from a large set (> 26 000 sites) of FIA surface fuel measurements. Herbaceous fuel loading is estimated using site-specific parameters with the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index from MODIS. Shrub fuel loading is quantified by applying numerous allometric equations linking stand structure and composition to biomass and fuels, with the structure and composition data derived from geospatial data layers of the LANDFIRE project. MFLEI provides estimates of CONUS daily wildfire burned area, fuel consumption, and pollutant emissions at a 250 m × 250 m resolution for 2003–2015. A spatially aggregated emission product (10 km × 10 km, 1 day) with uncertainty estimates is included to provide a representation of emission uncertainties at a spatial scale pertinent to air quality modeling. MFLEI will be updated, with recent years, as the MTBS burned area product becomes available. The data associated with this article can be found at (Urbanski et al., 2017).

Online Link(s):
Urbanski, Shawn P.; Reeves, Matt C.; Corley, Rachel E.; Silverstein, Robin P.; Hao, Wei Min. 2018. Contiguous United States wildland fire emission estimates during 2003-2015. Earth System Science Data 10(4):2241-2274.