Abstract. One month of the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) Global Area Coverage (GAC) Land Pathfinder (AGLP) data from September 1985 are used to examine the spatial and temporal distribution of fires over four major ecosystems in South America. The Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) scanner data are used to examine the top of atmosphere (TOA) shortwave and longwave fluxes over smoke generated from biomass burning. The relationship between the AGLP-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and the ERBE-estimated clear sky albedos are also examined as a function of the four ecosystems. This study shows that the grassland areas in South America have the highest number of fires for September 1985, and their corresponding NDVI values are smaller than the tropical rainforest region where the number of fires were comparatively small. Clear sky statistics accumulated during the days when smoke was not present show that clear sky albedos derived from ERBE are higher for grassland areas when compared to the tropical rainforest. The results show that the AGLP can be used to determine the spatial and temporal distribution of fires along with vegetation characteristics, while ERBE data can provide necessary information on broadband albedos and regional top of atmosphere radiative impacts of biomass burning aerosols. Since the AGLP data are available from 1981 to the present day, several climate-related issues can be addressed.