1CNR-IREA, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche – Istituto per il Rilevamento Elettromagnetico dell'Ambiente, Milano, Italy
2Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission, Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES), Global Environment Monitoring Unit (GEM), Ispra (VA), Italy
3Laboratoire d'Aérologie, UMR 5560, Toulouse, France
4Service d'Aéronomie/CNRS, Paris, France
5NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA
6NOAA Global Monitoring Division, Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, CO, USA
7University of Colorado, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Boulder, CO, USA
Abstract. We compare five global inventories of monthly CO emissions named VGT, ATSR, MODIS, GFED3 and MOPITT based on remotely sensed active fires and/or burned area products for the year 2003. The objective is to highlight similarities and differences by focusing on the geographical and temporal distribution and on the emissions for three broad land cover classes (forest, savanna/grassland and agriculture). Globally, CO emissions for the year 2003 range between 365 Tg CO (GFED3) and 1422 Tg CO (VGT). Despite the large uncertainty in the total amounts, some common spatial patterns typical of biomass burning can be identified in the boreal forests of Siberia, in agricultural areas of Eastern Europe and Russia and in savanna ecosystems of South America, Africa and Australia. Regionally, the largest difference in terms of total amounts (CV > 100%) and seasonality is observed at the northernmost latitudes, especially in North America and Siberia where VGT appears to overestimate the area affected by fires. On the contrary, Africa shows the best agreement both in terms of total annual amounts (CV = 31%) and of seasonality despite some overestimation of emissions from forest and agriculture observed in the MODIS inventory. In Africa VGT provides the most reliable seasonality. Looking at the broad land cover types, the range of contribution to the global emissions of CO is 64–74%, 23–32% and 3–4% for forest, savanna/grassland and agriculture, respectively. These results suggest that there is still large uncertainty in global estimates of emissions and it increases if the comparison is carried by out taking into account the temporal (month) and spatial (0.5° × 0.5° cell) dimensions. Besides the area affected by fires, also vegetation characteristics and conditions at the time of burning should also be accurately parameterized since they can greatly influence the global estimates of CO emissions.