Spatiotemporal variation of surface shortwave forcing from fire-induced albedo change in interior Alaska

Canadian Journal of Forest Research
By: , and 



The albedo change caused by both fires and subsequent succession is spatially heterogeneous, leading to the need to assess the spatiotemporal variation of surface shortwave forcing (SSF) as a component to quantify the climate impacts of high-latitude fires. We used an image reconstruction approach to compare postfire albedo with the albedo assuming fires had not occurred. Combining the fire-caused albedo change from the 2001-2010 fires in interior Alaska and the monthly surface incoming solar radiation, we examined the spatiotemporal variation of SSF in the early successional stage of around 10 years. Our results showed that while postfire albedo generally increased in fall, winter, and spring, some burned areas could show an albedo decrease during these seasons. In summer, the albedo increased for several years and then declined again. The spring SSF distribution did not show a latitudinal decrease from south to north as previously reported. The results also indicated that although the SSF is usually largely negative in the early successional years, it may not be significant during the first postfire year. The annual 2005-2010 SSF for the 2004 fire scars was -1.30, -4.40, -3.31, -4.00, -3.42, and -2.47 Wm-2. The integrated annual SSF map showed significant spatial variation with a mean of -3.15 Wm-2 and a standard deviation of 3.26 Wm-2, 16% of burned areas having positive SSF. Our results suggest that boreal deciduous fires would be less positive for climate change than boreal evergreen fires. Future research is needed to comprehensively investigate the spatiotemporal radiative and non-radiative forcings to determine the effect of boreal fires on climate.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Spatiotemporal variation of surface shortwave forcing from fire-induced albedo change in interior Alaska
Series title Canadian Journal of Forest Research
DOI 10.1139/cjfr-2014-0309
Volume 45
Issue 3
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher NRC Research Press
Contributing office(s) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
Description 10 p.
First page 276
Last page 285
Country United States
State Alaska
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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