Carbon emissions from 2015 fires in Southeast Asia greatest since 1997: New study



Carbon emissions from 2015 fires in Southeast Asia greatest since 1997: New study

28 June 2016 – A new study of the forest and peatland fires that burned across maritime Southeast Asia in 2015 has found that the carbon emissions were the largest since 1997, when an even stronger El Niño also resulted in extended drought and widespread burning.

Using a pioneering combination of regional satellite observations, on-the-ground measurements in Kalimantan, Indonesia, and the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) modeling framework, the study’s authors determined that the daily carbon emissions released by the fires in September and October 2015 were higher than those of the entire European Union (EU) over the same period.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, was carried out by a team led by Vincent Huijnen of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and Martin J. Wooster of King’s College London and the NERC National Center for Earth Observation, and included Daniel Murdiyarso and David Gaveau from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Read about the study on Forests News here.  Access the full paper here.

In September and October 2015, dry conditions and the delayed onset of seasonal rains contributed to extensive landscape fires, with the resulting smoke strongly impacting air quality in the region and the health of millions of people.

This research team is the very first to have measured the ground-level smoke composition from active peatland burning in the region. They combined that data with satellite information to derive the first greenhouse gas emissions estimates of the 2015 fires, finding that 884 million tons of carbon dioxide was released in the region last year – 97% originating from burning in Indonesia. The corresponding carbon emissions were 289 million tons, and associated carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions 1.2 billion tons.

Satellites provided data on the heat output being radiated by the fires, as well as information on the amount of carbon monoxide present in the surrounding atmosphere. From this, the total carbon emissions were calculated by combining those measurements with the newly determined emission factors of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane measured at fires burning in October 2015 outside of Palangka Raya in Central Kalimantan province – one of the hardest-hit fire sites.

“There have been some isolated studies before where people artificially set fires in the lab to try to understand the chemical characteristics of peatland fire smoke in Indonesia. But no one had done this on natural fires, and especially not on the kind of extreme fires seen in 2015. We are the first people to do that,” said Wooster.

The results indicate that regional carbon dioxide emissions from landscape fires were 11.3 million tons per day in September and October 2015, exceeding the EU’s daily rate of 8.9 million tons. Further, 77% of the regional fire carbon emissions for the year occurred during that time – at the peak of the fires.

The scientists also compared their results to those of the 1997 El Niño-related fires in the region.

“In 1997 the drought lasted longer, the fires were more severe and a lot more forest burned. In 2015, fires mostly burned on degraded peatland covered with shrubs and wood debris,” said CIFOR scientist David Gaveau.

The study’s results have wide implications for future research, whether it is in respect to studies of landscape burning or the impacts of fire emissions on climate and public health, and they contribute to better understanding the need for fire prevention and improved landscape management.

“What is important is the applicability of a study like this in helping policy makers to use more accurate fire emission factors to design policy and act to prevent further fires and greenhouse gas emissions,” CIFOR scientist Daniel Murdiyarso said.

For more information about this article, please contact:

Martin J. Wooster
King’s College London and NERC National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO)

Daniel Murdiyarso
Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor, Indonesia and Department of Geophysics and Meteorology, Bogor Agricultural University, Bogor, Indonesia
Email:; Tel: +62-251-8622622 (Office)

Article Disclaimer: This article was published at CIFOR on 26th June 2016 and retrieved on 7th July 2016 and posted at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only. The views, thoughts and findings in the article remains those of the authors. Please cite the original source and INDESEEM appropriately.


Smoky air, temperatures expected to decline this weekend in Treasure Valley

Smoke billows from the Walker Fire shortly before sunset Wednesday as seen from Idaho City.

Photo Credited: KATY MOELLER —

Written by: Statesman Staff October 16, 2015

For the first time in several days, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality on Wednesday forecast Treasure Valley Air quality as only unhealthy for sensitive groups — not good, but better than the red rating that had dominated recent statistics and declared conditions unhealthy for everyone.

The DEQ downgraded Wednesday’s initial red rating to the somewhat better orange and predicts an orange rating Thursday as smoke from the Walker fire near Idaho City continues to create haze in Boise and beyond.

Air quality could see more of a boost this weekend, when cooler temperatures and possible showers are forecast, the National Weather Service predicts. Temperatures Tuesday through Thursday have averaged about 10 degrees above normal, and the Boise area is already about a week beyond the average date for its first freeze.

It will stay warmer than normal up until Saturday, with a predicted high of 81 Friday, meteorologist Valerie Mills said Thursday.

Saturday will bring a chance of precipitation, starting in the afternoon, and a predicted high of 69 degrees. Sunday’s forecast calls for temperatures in the low 60s and a slight chance of showers, Mills said.

“The weather pattern would be favorable for mixing some of the smoke up and transporting it away,” she said. “Of course, if we get any precipitation, that could help too.”

Temperatures are expected to return to the 70s for Monday and Tuesday, she said.

“If you’re waiting for a freeze, you’re going to have to wait longer than 7 days,” she said.

The DEQ noted that hour-by-hour, the Treasure Valley could still see air quality anywhere from “green” (good) to “red,” and that smoke from the fire could still worsen again at any time.

In addition to a likely lessening of the Treasure Valley’s smoky haze, more good news has emerged from the 4,385-acre Walker fire, officials said Thursday.

Residents were able to return to their homes in Macks Creek, Pine Creek, and Wolf Creek Wednesday night after being evacuated Sunday due to the blaze, according to fire officials.

The human-caused fire has been 50 percent contained, and crews have pushed it away from residential areas, officials report.

The Idaho Department of Lands is managing the blaze, and almost 400 people are fighting the fire, according to officials.

The late-season fire helped spark the Department of Lands’ Wednesday announcement that it will extend “closed fire season” until further notice, requiring anyone outside city limits anywhere in Idaho to obtain a fire safety burn permit before burning anything, including crop residue. An exception is granted for recreational campfires. Burn permits can be obtained online or in person at IDL offices statewide.

Article Disclaimer: This article was originally published by Idaho Statesman on Environment and was retrieved on 10/16/2015 and republished at INDESEEM for Information and educational purposes only. Please cite the original source accordingly.