Fire-Induced Variation of Essential Climate Variables in Northern Sub-Saharan Africa
Friday, 19 December 2014: 11:50 AM
The northern sub-Saharan African (NSSA) region, bounded on the north and south by the Sahara and the Equator, respectively, and stretching East-West across Africa, is very vulnerable because of the highly active environmental and meteorological processes associated with its unique location and human activities. Over the years, this region has suffered frequent severe droughts that have caused tremendous hardship and loss of life to millions of its inhabitants due to the rapid depletion of the regional water resources. On the other hand, the NSSA region shows one of the highest biomass-burning rates per unit land area among all regions of the world. Because of the high concentration and frequency of fires in this region, with the associated abundance of heat release and gaseous and particulate smoke emissions, biomass-burning activity is believed to be one of the drivers of the regional carbon and energy cycles, with serious implications for the water cycle and climate. An interdisciplinary research effort sponsored by NASA is presently being focused on the NSSA region, to better understand possible connections between the intense biomass burning observed from satellite year after year across the region and the water cycle, through associated changes in certain essential climate variables (ECVs) including land-cover, albedo, soil moisture, evapotranspiration, and atmospheric composition, which can drive changes in additional ECVs such as atmospheric water vapor and wind patterns, precipitation, surface runoff, and groundwater recharge. A combination of remote sensing and modeling approaches is being utilized to investigate these multiple processes to clarify possible links between them. We are finding significant relationships between biomass burning and many of the above-listed ECVs. In this presentation, we will discuss interesting results as well as the path toward improved understanding of the interrelationships and feedbacks between the water cycle components and the environmental change dynamics due to biomass burning and related processes in the NSSA region.