An analysis of prescribed fire activities and emissions in the southeastern United States from 2013 to 2020
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Zongrun Li; Kamal J. Maji; Yongtao Hu; Ambarish Vaidyanathan; Susan M. O'Neill; Mehmet Talat Odman; Armistead G. Russell
Publication Year: 2023

Cataloging Information

  • agricultural burning
  • air quality
  • biomass burning
  • Blue Sky
  • FINN - Fire Inventory of NCAR
  • wildfires
  • wildland fire
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: May 25, 2023
FRAMES Record Number: 68240


Prescribed burning is a major source of a fine particular matter, especially in the southeastern United States, and quantifying emissions from burning operations accurately is an integral part of ascertaining air quality impacts. For instance, a critical factor in calculating fire emissions is identifying fire activity information (e.g., location, date/time, fire type, and area burned) and prior estimations of prescribed fire activity used for calculating emissions have either used burn permit records or satellite-based remote sensing products. While burn permit records kept by state agencies are a reliable source, they are not always available or readily accessible. Satellite-based remote sensing products are currently used to fill the data gaps, especially in regional studies; however, they cannot differentiate prescribed burns from the other types of fires. In this study, we developed novel algorithms to distinguish prescribed burns from wildfires and agricultural burns in a satellite-derived product, Fire INventory from NCAR (FINN). We matched and compared the burned areas from permit records and FINN at various spatial scales: individual fire level, 4 km grid level, and state level. The methods developed in this study are readily usable for differentiating burn type, matching and comparing the burned area between two datasets at various resolutions, and estimating prescribed burn emissions. The results showed that burned areas from permits and FINN have a weak correlation at the individual fire level, while the correlation is much higher for the 4 km grid and state levels. Since matching at the 4 km grid level showed a relatively higher correlation and chemical transport models typically use grid-based emissions, we used the linear regression relationship between FINN and permit burned areas at the grid level to adjust FINN burned areas. This adjustment resulted in a reduction in FINN-burned areas by 34%. The adjusted burned area was then used as input to the BlueSky Smoke Modeling Framework to provide long-term, three-dimensional prescribed burning emissions for the southeastern United States. In this study, we also compared emissions from different methods (FINN or BlueSky) and different data sources (adjusted FINN or permits) to evaluate uncertainties of our emission estimation. The comparison results showed the impacts of the burned area, method, and data source on prescribed burning emission estimations.

Online Link(s):
Li, Zongrun; Maji, Kamal J.; Hu, Yongtao; Vaidyanathan, Ambarish; O’Neill, Susan M.; Odman, M. T.; Russell, Armistead G. 2023. An analysis of prescribed fire activities and emissions in the southeastern United States from 2013 to 2020. Remote Sensing 15(11):2725.