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Geoscientific Model Development An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/gmd-2020-298
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/gmd-2020-298
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: development and technical paper 06 Oct 2020

Submitted as: development and technical paper | 06 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal GMD.

Coupling interactive fire with atmospheric composition and climate in the UK Earth System Model

João C. Teixeira1,2, Gerd Folberth1, Fiona M. O'Connor1, Nadine Unger2, and Apostolos Voulgarakis3,4 João C. Teixeira et al.
  • 1Met Office, Fitzroy Road, EX1 3PB, Exeter, UK
  • 2College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  • 3Leverhulme Centre for Wildfires, Environment and Society, Department of Physics, Imperial College London, London, UK
  • 4School of Environmental Engineering, Technical University of Crete, Chania, Greece

Abstract. Fire constitutes a key process in the Earth system (ES) being driven by climate as well as affecting the climate by changing atmospheric composition and impacting the terrestrial carbon cycle. However, studies on the effects of fires on atmospheric composition, radiative forcing and climate have been limited to date, as the current generation of ES models (ESMs) do not include fully coupled fires. The aim of this work is the development and evaluation of a fully coupled fire-composition-climate ES model. For this, the INteractive Fires and Emissions algoRithm for Natural envirOnments (INFERNO) fire model is coupled to the atmosphere-only configuration of the UK’s Earth System Model (UKESM1). This fire-atmosphere interaction through atmospheric chemistry and aerosols allows for fire emissions to influence radiation, clouds, and generally weather, which can consequently influence the meteorological drivers of fire. Additionally, INFERNO is updated based on recent developments in the literature to improve the representation of human/economic factors in the anthropogenic ignition and suppression of fire. This work presents an assessment of the effects of interactive fire coupling on atmospheric composition and climate compared to the standard UKESM1 configuration that uses prescribed fire emissions. Results show a similar performance when using the fire-atmosphere coupling (the online version of the model) when compared to the offline UKESM1 that uses prescribed fire. The model can reproduce observed present day global fire emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) and aerosols, despite underestimating the global average burnt area. However, at a regional scale there is an overestimation of fire emissions over Africa due to the misrepresentation of the underlying vegetation types and an underestimation over Equatorial Asia due to a lack of representation of peat fires. Despite this, comparing model results with observations of CO column mixing ratio and aerosol optical depth show that the fire-atmosphere coupled configuration has a similar performance when compared to UKESM1. In fact, including the interactive biomass burning emissions improves the interannual CO atmospheric column variability and consequently its seasonality over the main biomass burning regions – Africa and South America. Similarly, for aerosols, the AOD results broadly agree with MODIS and AERONET observations.

João C. Teixeira et al.

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Short summary
Fire constitutes a key process in the Earth System being driven by climate as well as affecting climate. However, studies on the effects of fires on atmospheric composition and climate have been limited to date. This work implements and assesses the coupling of an interactive fire model on atmospheric composition comparing it to an offline approach. This approach shows a good performance at a global scale. However, regional scale limitations lead to bias in modelling fire emissions.
Fire constitutes a key process in the Earth System being driven by climate as well as affecting...
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