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Geoscientific Model Development An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 6, issue 3
Geosci. Model Dev., 6, 643–685, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Geosci. Model Dev., 6, 643–685, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Model description paper 17 May 2013

Model description paper | 17 May 2013

A model for global biomass burning in preindustrial time: LPJ-LMfire (v1.0)

M. Pfeiffer1, A. Spessa2,3, and J. O. Kaplan1 M. Pfeiffer et al.
  • 1ARVE Group, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 2Department of Atmospheric Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany
  • 3Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Abstract. Fire is the primary disturbance factor in many terrestrial ecosystems. Wildfire alters vegetation structure and composition, affects carbon storage and biogeochemical cycling, and results in the release of climatically relevant trace gases including CO2, CO, CH4, NOx, and aerosols. One way of assessing the impacts of global wildfire on centennial to multi-millennial timescales is to use process-based fire models linked to dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs). Here we present an update to the LPJ-DGVM and a new fire module based on SPITFIRE that includes several improvements to the way in which fire occurrence, behaviour, and the effects of fire on vegetation are simulated. The new LPJ-LMfire model includes explicit calculation of natural ignitions, the representation of multi-day burning and coalescence of fires, and the calculation of rates of spread in different vegetation types. We describe a new representation of anthropogenic biomass burning under preindustrial conditions that distinguishes the different relationships between humans and fire among hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, and farmers. We evaluate our model simulations against remote-sensing-based estimates of burned area at regional and global scale. While wildfire in much of the modern world is largely influenced by anthropogenic suppression and ignitions, in those parts of the world where natural fire is still the dominant process (e.g. in remote areas of the boreal forest and subarctic), our results demonstrate a significant improvement in simulated burned area over the original SPITFIRE. The new fire model we present here is particularly suited for the investigation of climate–human–fire relationships on multi-millennial timescales prior to the Industrial Revolution.

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