Variability in the emission of carbon-based trace gases from wildfire in the Alaskan boreal forest



[1] A study was carried out to assess the variability in trace gas emission from several factors and to estimate the immediate impact of fire on carbon exchange. Using geospatial data, a model of emission was developed for three carbon-based gases, CO2, CO, and CH4, released during fires from 1950 through 1999 in the boreal region of Alaska. The effect of two factors in the model were investigated: the fractions of carbon consumed and the ratio of flaming to smoldering combustion. We chose 4 years with which to investigate the range of outcomes. An average of 4.5 teragrams of carbon (TgC) has been released annually over the past 50 years. Severe fire years can produce emissions as high as 38 TgC. Wide variations in emissions of total carbon and carbon-based gas were seen between years. Variations in the estimates of the fractions of biomass consumed during the burn influenced the amount of total carbon emitted; however, the annual area burned strongly determines total carbon released each year, regardless of fraction consumed. Assumptions regarding flaming versus smoldering fire influenced levels of emissions of CO and CH4. These estimates show that wildfire in Alaska's boreal region has contributed a substantial amount of carbon-based gas to the atmosphere over the five decades of fire records.