2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 101-3
Presentation Time: 8:35 AM


ICHOKU, Charles, ELLISON, Luke, GATEBE, Charles K. and POUDYAL, Rajesh, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, GREENBELT, MD 20771, Charles.Ichoku@nasa.gov

One of the most environmentally dynamic regions of the world is the northern sub-Saharan African (NSSA) region, which is bounded to the north and south by the Sahara and the Equator, respectively, and stretches East-West across Africa. This is due in part to the intense anthropogenic biomass burning activities that occur there during the dry season, year after year. In fact, this NSSA region alone is estimated to contribute 20%–25% of the global annual carbon emissions from open biomass burning. This extensive biomass-burning phenomenon is apt to make a substantial contribution to environmental change, whose effects on the regional climate variability can be significant, with far-reaching implications for societal adaptation. We are using robust remote sensing analysis approaches to investigate the environmental change dynamics due to biomass burning and related processes in the NSSA region. Analysis of instantaneous fire observations from MODIS sensors aboard Terra and Aqua satellites paired with the corresponding land cover type and surface albedo retrievals over the study period of 2003-2013 reveals a dominant burning of savanna, followed by cropland land cover types throughout the region. For all land-cover types, there is a tendency toward post-fire decrease in regional surface albedo, of which at least 99% recovers to pre-fire values within 7 years. There are a few indications of the interchange between savanna and cropland due to the burning practices. Although the fire activity in the whole NSSA region decreased at the rate of 1.4%/yr during the study period, some land cover types in parts of NSSA show an increase in the intensity of burning, including local increases within sensitive land cover types such as forest and wetland, which could have serious ecological implications.