Satellite and airborne observations of fire characteristics and smoke emissions can illuminate wildfire management strategies
Wildfires and other types of biomass burning are a seasonal phenomenon in different land ecosystems around the world. Such fires are estimated to consume biomass containing a total of 2-5 petagrams of carbon globally every year, generating heat energy and emitting smoke plumes that comprise different species of aerosols and trace gases. These emissions can have adverse effects on air quality and climate. Although less than 5% of global fires occur in North America, recent studies have shown steady and significant increases in burned areas over the last few decades across the continent, especially in the western US.
Detection and characterization of fires and their behavior patterns, energy release, and smoke emission source strengths are essential to adequately constrain our knowledge of biomass burning impacts on society, the environment, and climate. Satellite measurement of fire radiative energy (FRE) release rate or power (FRP) has been found to have a direct relationship with the rates of biomass fuel consumption, plume injection, and emissions of major smoke constituents. Therefore, the ability to characterize fire structure (including flaming, smoldering, and glowing fractions) and quantify their FRP at high resolution from satellite or aircraft can provide the information needed to monitor fire activity and its emission characteristics (plume injection profile and emission rates of different smoke constituents), which are necessary for tactical fire management operations and smoke pollution forecasting. In this presentation, we will show how our research efforts are aiming at illuminating important aspects of wildfire management strategies.
Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Dept. of Interdisciplinary Studies
Distinguished Scientist, NOAA Cooperative Science Center in Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology (NCAS-M)
Dr. Charles Ichoku is a Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies within the College of Arts and Sciences (COAS) at Howard University, Washington, DC. He is also the Distinguished Scientist of the NOAA Cooperative Science Center in Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology (NCAS-M), a thirteen-member academic consortium constituted to diversify the student population trained in Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, Meteorology, and other fields that are aligned with NOAA’s mission enterprise.
Dr. Ichoku received his Ph.D in Earth Sciences from the Pierre & Marie Curie University, Paris, France, and his M.S. and B.S. degrees in Remote Sensing and Surveying, respectively, from the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus. Prior to joining Howard University in the fall of 2018, he was a Research Physical Scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, where he was involved in a variety of Earth Science research and related activities for 20 years (1998–2018). His scientific activities over the years have included developing and applying both experimental and remote sensing approaches to research in interdisciplinary earth sciences. He is actively involved in the development of innovative approaches for characterizing land-atmosphere interaction processes, analyzing the energetics and emissions of wildfires and biomass burning, evaluating atmospheric aerosol retrievals from satellite observations, and elaborating the impacts of these phenomena on the environment and climate.