Exploiting the power law distribution properties of satellite fire radiative power retrievals: A method to estimate fire radiative energy and biomass burned from sparse satellite observations



[1] Instantaneous estimates of the power released by fire (fire radiative power, FRP) are available with satellite active fire detection products. The temporal integral of FRP provides an estimate of the fire radiative energy (FRE) that is related linearly to the amount of biomass burned needed by the atmospheric emissions modeling community. The FRE, however, is sensitive to satellite temporal and spatial FRP undersampling due to infrequent satellite overpasses, cloud and smoke obscuration, and failure to detect cool and/or small fires. Satellite FRPs derived over individual burned areas and fires have been observed to exhibit power law distributions. This property is exploited to develop a new way to derive FRE, as the product of the fire duration and the expected FRP value derived from the FRP power law probability distribution function. The method is demonstrated and validated by the use of FRP data measured with a dual-band radiometer over prescribed fires in the United States and by the use of FRP data retrieved from moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) active-fire detections over Brazilian deforestation and Australian savanna fires. The biomass burned derived using the conventional FRP temporal integration and power law FRE estimation methods is compared with biomass burned measurements (prescribed fires) and available fuel load information reported in the literature (Australian and Brazilian fires). The results indicate that the FRE power law derivation method may provide more reliable burned biomass estimates under sparse satellite FRP sampling conditions and correct for satellite active-fire detection omission errors if the FRP power law distribution parameters and the fire duration are known.