Atmospheric CH4 and CO2 enhancements and biomass burning emission ratios derived from satellite observations of the 2015 Indonesian fire plumes

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The 2015-2016 strong El Niño event has had a dramatic impact on the amount of Indonesian biomass burning, with the El Niño driven drought further desiccating the already drier than normal landscapes that are the result of decades of peatland draining, widespread deforestation, anthropogenically-driven forest degradation, and previous large fire events. It is expected that the 2015-16 Indonesian fires will have emitted globally significant quantities of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the atmosphere, as did previous El Niño driven fires in the region. The form which the carbon released from the combustion of the vegetation and peat soils takes has a strong bearing on its atmospheric chemistry and climatological impacts. Typically, burning in tropical forests and especially in peatlands is expected to involve a much higher proportion of smouldering combustion than the more flaming-characterised fires that occur in fine-fuel dominated environments such as grasslands, consequently producing significantly more CH4 (and CO) per unit of fuel burned. However, currently there have been no aircraft campaigns sampling Indonesian fire plumes, and very few ground-based field campaigns (none during El Niño), so our understanding of the large-scale chemical composition of these extremely significant fire plumes is surprisingly poor compared to, for example, those of southern Africa or the Amazon.

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