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GDEST 2008 Conference Sessions 

Theme 1 - Observing Africa
Satellite Characterization of Biomass Burning and Smoke Emissions in Africa
Charles Ichoku, University of Maryland at NASA/GSFC, USA

Biomass-burning is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa; affecting a significant proportion of the forest, grass, and agricultural lands annually. Fires release heat energy, which is propagated by conduction, convection, and radiation. Fire radiative energy (FRE), like other types of electromagnetic radiant energy, propagates in space and facilitates fire detection by remote sensing. Recent advancements in satellite remote sensing technology have enabled actual measurement of FRE from space, principally by the MODIS sensors onboard the NASA Terra and Aqua satellites, and the SEVIRI sensors on the European Meteosat satellites. Recent studies have shown that FRE is directly proportional to biomass consumed by fires as well as the smoke they emit. Tremendous amounts of smoke are emitted annually, and comprise aerosol particles and trace gases, which constitute air pollutants and contribute to the perturbation of the global radiative balance through the scattering and absorption of solar radiation. In this presentation, we will show how we utilize satellite measurements of FRE release rates to quantitatively characterize the spatio-temporal distribution of biomass burning and to derive smoke particulate emissions in different regions of Africa. The result has great potential for application in monitoring the impacts of fire on land-use changes and air-quality in Africa, and can be used as a knowledge base for developing strategies to regulate biomass burning in order to enhance sustainable development.