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Global spatial and temporal distribution of vegetation fire as determined from satellite observations

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Vegetation fires occur worldwide, all year round and inject enormous amounts of trace gases and particles into the atmosphere. Nonetheless, there is still great uncertainty as to the global spatial and temporal distribution of vegetation fires. Twenty one months of global, daily, daytime satellite data at 1 km resolution, from April 1992 to December 1993, were processed in order to determine the positions of active vegetation fires. Results from the first twelve months of the study period are presented here. This is the first time that such a global study has been carried out using a long time series data set and a single processing technique. The data set and results discussed provide much improved information on the spatial variability and the seasonality of vegetation fires. They will be of use in the global mapping and modelling of emissions due to biomass burning as well as in the study of the role of fire in land cover maintenance and change. We show that half of the fires detected were on the African continent and over 70% within the tropical belt. Fires were detected in more than 6% of 1 km2 pixels, over land, during the 12-month period and savanna grasslands accounted for over one third of this area.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-04-15

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