Welcome to this site devoted to the study of the interactions between biomass burning and climate in Africa. The following snippets highlight our project funded under two successive NASA Interdisciplinary Research in Earth Science (IDS) proposals, beginning in 2009. The IDS-2013 successor project aims to reinforce and amplify the preceding IDS-2009 interdisciplinary study by incorporating the potential impacts of similar environmental phenomena and processes in the adjoining Northern and Southern Africa as well as the Atlantic and Indian Oceans on the water cycle dynamics in the NSSA region. Our team is well constituted, with scientists from different but complementary areas of expertise, including biomass burning and surface characterization, aerosols and atmospheric modeling, cloud processes and precipitation, surface hydrology, ground-water hydrology, and climate modeling. Most of these scientists have substantial experience working in the NSSA region. This research is strategically designed to encompass in depth and breadth the different disciplines relevant to the subject matter, with dynamic linkages throughout the research period, in order to obtain a comprehensive result that relates the scientific outcome to societal impacts, as well as future projections of these. This is needed to formulate mitigation options to avert the looming regional/global catastrophic outcome of a potentially irreversible "takeover" of that region by drought/desertification, exemplified by the drying up of Lake Chad and other water resources. Detailed description / List of team members
The Northern Sub-Saharan African (NSSA) region, extending from the southern fringes of the Sahara to the Equator, and stretching west to east from the Atlantic to the Indian ocean coasts, plays a prominent role in the genesis of global atmospheric circulation and the birth of such major (and often catastrophic) events as hurricanes and the distribution of the Saharan dust to other parts of the world. Therefore, this NSSA region represents a critical variable in the global climate change equation. Recent satellite-based studies have revealed that the NSSA region has 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 a major driver of the regional carbon, energy, and water cycles. We acknowledge that the rainy season in the NSSA region is from April to September while biomass burning occurs mainly during the dry season (October to March). Nevertheless, these two phenomena are indirectly coupled to each other through a chain of complex processes and conditions, including land-cover and surface-albedo changes, the carbon cycle, evapotranspiration, drought, desertification, surface water runoff, ground water recharge, and variability in atmospheric composition, heating rates, and circulation.
This image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer <a href="http://modis.gsfc.nasa.gov">(MODIS)</a> on NASA’s <a href="http://aqua.nasa.gov">Aqua</a> satellite on March 17, 2009, shows scores of fires burning in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Read more
We are in the midst of an interdisciplinary research effort, which seeks to address the effects of the intense biomass burning observed from satellite year after year across the NSSA region on the rapid depletion of the regional water resources, as exemplified by the dramatic drying of Lake Chad. The proposal brings together a multi-disciplinary team of scientists from different but complimentary fields of expertise that has helped to unravel the coupling of these phenomena and associated processes and outcomes. Through this effort we are making gains to understand the impacts of recent (2000-present) biomass-burning by monitoring and assessing multiple regional surface, atmospheric, and water cycle processes through remote sensing and modeling approaches that integrate research, systems engineering, and applications expertise, in order to achieve concrete results for societal benefits and climate assessments.
This Environmental Research Letters focus issue invites interdisciplinary studies that can help unravel the links between African environmental processes such as land-use activities, biomass burning, and atmospheric composition and water-cycle-related phenomena such as rainfall, soil moisture, and groundwater dynamics. Read more
Fires burn extensively in most vegetated parts of the world. Smoke from biomass burning contributes a major portion of the annual carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Thus, an accurate smoke emissions inventory is imperative to correctly understand the impacts of biomass burning on the global climate system and regional environmental dynamics. A major effort to create a new emissions dataset for this very purpose has resulted in the FEER (Fire Energetics and Emissions Research) emissions product: a globally gridded product that is derived from satellite measurements of fire radiative power (FRP) and aerosol optical depth (AOD) in conjunction with model-assimilated wind fields. Read more
The study demonstrates simple methods for characterizing and deriving the trajectories of post-fire albedo dynamics from satellite data that is consistent and widely available. Results show that savannas accounted for >86% of the total MODIS fire count between 2003 and 2011 in Northern sub-Saharan Africa, that only a small fraction of the savanna pixels (<=10%) burn in two successive years, and that about 47% had any fire recurrence in 9 years. Read more
Large scale events such as fires need to be better represented in most land surface models as they have a direct impact on the hydrological fluxes of a region. Here we have investigated how the Catchment Land Surface Model simulates hydrological and energy fluxes based on estimated change of surface albedo due to fires over different land cover types. Burning of biomass as observed by satellites causes a change in albedo that leads to a 1-3% decrease in soil moisture and up to a 1degC increase in surface temperature. Read more
Charles Ichoku wants to understand whether fires in sub-Saharan Africa are changing the timing and duration of rains. The viability of Lake Chad may depend on what his team finds. Read more
NSSA accounts for 20%–25% of the global carbon emissions from biomass burning. Given such overwhelming occurrence of biomass burning in this region and its inherent potential to affect vegetation changes, land degradation, deforestation, surface albedo, aerosol emissions, and surface evapotranspiration, it is reasonable to hypothesize that biomass burning, directly or indirectly, exerts significant impact on NSSA’s environmental dynamics and water cycle across different spatial and temporal scales. Widespread burning that peaked in 2006 across the northern part of sub-Saharan Africa influences land-cover changes that result in a net conversion of 0.28%/year of the total land area to cropland, with the majority (0.18%/year) coming from savanna. Over the last decade, the trend is increasing from savanna, forest, and wetlands to cropland. Read more
For centuries drought has come and gone across northern sub-Saharan Africa. In recent years, water shortages have been most severe in the Sahel—a band of semi-arid land situated just south of the Sahara Desert and stretching coast-to-coast across the continent, from Senegal and Mauritania in the west to Sudan and Eritrea in the east. Drought struck the Sahel most recently in 2012, triggering food shortages for millions of people due to crop failure and soaring food prices. Read more
This project has enabled us to not only maintain previous collaborations but to also establish new collaborations with several colleagues in the US, Europe, and Africa who have interest in related research in our study region. The collaborations were established both at the project level and at the level of individual co-investigators. Furthermore, various user organizations such as the World Bank, Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), and Nigerian Space Agency (NASRDA) were contacted and briefed during the course of this project, thereby engendering their interest in developing partnership with us to maximize the utilization of our results for societal benefit. There is a general support from these organizations to receive and evaluate our results or assist with collection of ancillary data, when applicable.
On June 25, 2012 our project team held an interactive meeting in Abuja, Nigeria with a wide range of stakeholders from various government and non-profit organizations working in the Lake Chad Basin (LCB). The meeting was hosted by the Directorate for Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA), an agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nigeria. Drs. Charles Ichoku and Jimmy Adegoke represented our NASA IDS project team at the meeting. The key objectives of the interactive meeting were to: 1) Sensitize the Lake Chad Basin stakeholders on the research being undertaken by our NASA IDS team, 2) Determine how the needs and priorities of inhabitants of the LCB can constrain, inform or influence our ongoing study, and 3) Explore how NASA science and technology can best support the attainment of the development goals of the LCB. Thirty-two participants representing 15 agencies attended the one-day meeting.
A workshop was held to explore possible collaboration areas between the two international outfits, NASA and WASCAL. WASCAL (West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use) is a large-scale research-focused Climate Service Centre working on enhancing the resilience of human and environmental systems to climate change and increased variability. Read more
The COSPAR Capacity Building (CB) Workshop on Interdisciplinary Remote Sensing, Modeling, and Validation of Environmental Processes is being held at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana from 12-23 June 2017. The workshop is bringing together an extensive suite of major international research programs/projects to transfer a large knowledge base to young professionals and graduate students in West Africa. Read more
Numerous visualization and anlysis tools have been developed in connection with this research project, including maps, data visualization, interactive features, and forecasts.
A database of daily and monthly images showing fire strength (specifically, fire radiative power, or FRP) in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is continually updated and maintained. The fire season in SSA is synonymous with the dry season, which generally extends from October/November through April/May for Northern SSA, and the inverse months for Southern SSA.
The AfricaExplorer tool was developed for the ability to quickly visualize our data products - both input products and derivative products. The imagery includes the past few days of data, and also the forecasted data for a few days into the future. The tool has the ability to plot time series charts for key cities around the continent.
Ichoku, C., Ellison, L. T., Willmot, K. E., Matsui, T., Dezfuli, A. K., Gatebe, C. K., … Habib, S. (2016). Biomass burning, land-cover change, and the hydrological cycle in Northern sub-Saharan Africa. Environmental Research Letters, 11(9), 95005. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/9/095005
Engelbrecht, F., Adegoke, J., Bopape, M.-J., Naidoo, M., Garland, R., Thatcher, M., … Gatebe, C. (2015). Projections of rapidly rising surface temperatures over Africa under low mitigation. Environmental Research Letters, 10(8), 85004. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/10/8/085004
Gatebe, C. K., Ichoku, C. M., Poudyal, R., Román, M. O., and Wilcox, E. (2014). Surface albedo darkening from wildfires in northern sub-Saharan Africa. Environmental Research Letters, 9(6), 65003. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/6/065003
Hosseinpour, F., and Wilcox, E. M. (2014). Aerosol interactions with African/Atlantic climate dynamics. Environmental Research Letters, 9(7), 75004. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/7/075004
Ichoku, C., and Ellison, L. (2014). Global top-down smoke-aerosol emissions estimation using satellite fire radiative power measurements. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 14(13), 6643–6667. doi:10.5194/acp-14-6643-2014
Long, S., Fatoyinbo, T. E., and Policelli, F. (2014). Flood extent mapping for Namibia using change detection and thresholding with SAR. Environmental Research Letters, 9(3), 35002. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/3/035002
Okonkwo, C., and Demoz, B. (2014). Identifying anthropogenic “hotspots” and management of water resources in Lake Chad Basin using GIS. Journal of Natural Resources Policy Research, 6(2–3), 135–149. doi:10.1080/19390459.2014.920581
Okonkwo, C., Demoz, B., and Gebremariam, S. (2014). Characteristics of Lake Chad Level Variability and Links to ENSO, Precipitation, and River Discharge. The Scientific World Journal, 2014. doi:10.1155/2014/145893
Skaskevych, A. (2014). A Comparison Study of GRACE-Based Groundwater Modeling for Data-Rich and Data-Scarce Regions. University of Missouri - Kansas City.
Zhang, F., Wang, J., Ichoku, C., Hyer, E. J., Yang, Z., Ge, C., … da Silva, A. (2014). Sensitivity of mesoscale modeling of smoke direct radiative effect to the emission inventory: a case study in northern sub-Saharan African region. Environmental Research Letters, 9(7), 75002. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/7/075002
Babama’aji, R. A., and Lee, J. (2013). Land use/land cover classification of the vicinity of Lake Chad using NigeriaSat-1 and Landsat data. Environmental Earth Sciences, 71(10), 4309–4317. doi:10.1007/s12665-013-2825-x
Babama’aji, R. A. (2013). Impacts of Precipitation, Land Use Land Cover and Soil Type on the Water Balance of Lake Chad Basin. University of Missouri - Kansas City.
Okonkwo, C., Demoz, B., and Onyeukwu, K. (2013). Characteristics of drought indices and rainfall in Lake Chad Basin. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 34(22), 7945–7961. doi:10.1080/01431161.2013.827813
Park, C., Lee, J., and Koo, M. H. (2013). Development of a fully-distributed daily hydrologic feedback model addressing vegetation, land cover, and soil water dynamics (VELAS). Journal of Hydrology, 493, 43–56. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2013.04.027
Yang, Z. (2013). Mesoscale Modeling and Satellite Observation of Transport and Mixing of Smoke and Dust Particles over Northern Sub-Saharan African Region. University of Nebraska - Lincoln.
Yang, Z., Wang, J., Ichoku, C., Hyer, E., and Zeng, J. (2013). Mesoscale modeling and satellite observation of transport and mixing of smoke and dust particles over northern sub-Saharan African region. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 118(21), 12139–12157. doi:10.1002/2013JD020644
Idowu, O. S. (2012). The role of land-atmosphere and aerosol interactions on meso-scale convective weather systems across West Africa. University of Missouri - Kansas City.
Park, C. (2012). VELAS: A fully-distributed daily hydrologic feedback model with emphasis on vegetation, land cover, and soil water dynamics. University of Missouri - Kansas City.
Tobar, I. M. (2012). Geostatistical analysis of land use/land cover changes and population growth trends in the Komadugu-Yobe River Basin in Nigeria. University of Missouri - Kansas City.
Aligeti, N. (2011). Satellite-based assessment of invasive vegetation in Lake Chad Basin, West Africa. University of Missouri - Kansas City.