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NASA study says climate adds fuel to Asian wildfire emissions
Date:4/30/2009

torial Asia that suppress the convection necessary for rainfall. Previously, scientists have used measurements from NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission satellite to correlate rainfall with carbon losses and burned land data, finding that wildfire emissions rose during dry El Nio seasons. The Indian Ocean dipole phenomenon affects climate in the Indian Ocean region with oscillating ocean temperatures characterized by warmer waters merging with colder waters to inhibit rainfall over Indonesia, Borneo, and their neighbors.

"This link between drought and emissions should be of concern to all of us," said co-author Ruth DeFries, an ecologist at Columbia University in New York. "If drought becomes more frequent with climate change, we can expect more fires."

Collatz, DeFries, and their colleagues found that between 2000 and 2006, the average carbon dioxide emissions from equatorial Asia accounted for about 2 percent of global fossil fuel emissions and 3 percent of the global increase in atmospheric CO2. But during moderate El Nio years in 2002 and 2006, when dry season rainfall was half of normal, fire emissions rose by a factor of 10. During the severe El Nio of 1997-1998, fire emissions from this region comprised 15 percent of global fossil fuel emissions and 31 percent of the global atmospheric increase over that period.

"This study not only updates our measurements of carbon losses from these fires, but also highlights an increasingly important factor driving change in equatorial Asia," explained DeFries. "In this part of Asia, human-ignited forest and peat fires are emitting excessive carbon into the atmosphere. In climate-sensitive areas like Borneo, human response to drought is a new dynamic affecting feedbacks between climate and the carbon cycle."

In addition to climate influences, human activities contribute to the growing fire emissions. Palm oil is increasingly grown for use as a cooking oil and biofuel, while also
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Contact: Sarah DeWitt
sarah.l.dewitt@nasa.gov
301-286-0535
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Source:Eurekalert

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