Sixteen years of MOPITT satellite data strongly constrain Amazon CO fire emissions Public Deposited
  • Despite the consensus on the overall downward trend in Amazon forest loss in the previous decade, estimates of yearly carbon emissions from deforestation still vary widely. Estimated carbon emissions are currently often based on data from local logging activity reports, changes in remotely sensed biomass, and remote detection of fire hotspots and burned area. Here, we use 16 years of satellite-derived carbon monoxide (CO) columns to constrain fire CO emissions from the Amazon Basin between 2003 and 2018. Through data assimilation, we produce 3 d average maps of fire CO emissions over the Amazon, which we verified to be consistent with a long-term monitoring programme of aircraft CO profiles over five sites in the Amazon. Our new product independently confirms a long-term decrease of 54 % in deforestation-related CO emissions over the study period. Interannual variability is large, with known anomalously dry years showing a more than 4-fold increase in basin-wide fire emissions relative to wet years. At the level of individual Brazilian states, we find that both soil moisture anomalies and human ignitions determine fire activity, suggesting that future carbon release from fires depends on drought intensity as much as on continued forest protection. Our study shows that the atmospheric composition perspective on deforestation is a valuable additional monitoring instrument that complements existing bottom-up and remote sensing methods for land-use change. Extension of such a perspective to an operational framework is timely considering the observed increased fire intensity in the Amazon Basin between 2019 and 2021.


Date Issued
  • 2022
Academic Affiliation
Journal Title
Journal Issue/Number
  • 22
Journal Volume
  • 22
Last Modified
  • 2023-09-25
Resource Type
Rights Statement
  • 1680-7324