Source compositions of trace gases released during African savanna fires


  • Wesley R. Cofer III,

  • Joel S. Levine,

  • Edward L. Winstead,

  • Donald R. Cahoon,

  • Daniel I. Sebacher,

  • Joseph P. Pinto,

  • Brian J. Stocks


Measurements of biomass burn-produced trace gases were made using low-altitude helicopter penetrations of smoke plumes above burning African savanna during the Southern African Fire-Atmosphere Research Initiative (SAFARI-92). Smoke from two large prescribed fires conducted in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, on September 18 and 24, 1992, was sampled at altitudes ranging from 20 to 100 m above ground level during flaming and smoldering phases of combustion. Carbon dioxide (CO2) normalized emission ratios (dX/dCO2 (vol/vol), where X denotes a trace gas) for carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen (H2), methane (CH4), total nonmethane hydrocarbons (TNMHC), and nitrous oxide (N2O) were determined. The emission ratios were used in conjunction with fuel consumption estimates to calculate emission factors (grams of product per gram of fuel) for these gases. Emission factors for CO2, CO, CH4, and N2O of 1.61, 0.055, 0.003, and 1.6 × 10−4 g/g fuel, respectively, were determined. The fires advanced rapidly through the savanna (primarily grass) fuels with minimal amounts of smoldering combustion. The relatively low emission ratios determined for these fires indicated excellent combustion efficiency. About 93% of the carbon released into the atmosphere as a result of these fires was in the form of CO2.