Multi-decadal trends and variability in burned area from the fifth version of the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED5)

Yang Chen, Joanne Hall, Dave Van Wees, Niels Andela, Stijn Hantson, Louis Giglio, Guido R. Van Der Werf, Douglas C. Morton, James T. Randerson

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch Articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Long-term records of burned area are needed to understand wildfire dynamics, assess fire impacts on ecosystems and air quality, and improve fire forecasts. Here, we fuse multiple streams of remote sensing data to create a 24 year (1997-2020) dataset of monthly burned area as a component of the fifth version of the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED5). During 2001-2020, we use the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) MCD64A1 burned area product and adjust for the errors of commission and omission. Adjustment factors are estimated based on region, land cover, and tree cover fraction, using spatiotemporally aligned burned area from Landsat or Sentinel-2. Burned area in croplands, peatlands, and deforestation regions is estimated from MODIS active fire detections. Along-Track Scanning Radiometer (ATSR) and Visible and Infrared Scanner (VIRS) active fire data are used to extend the time series back to 1997. The global annual burned area during 2001-2020 is estimated to be 774±63Mhayr-1 or 5.9±0.5% of ice-free land. Burned area declined by 1.21±0.66%yr-1, a cumulative decrease of 24.2±13.2% over 20 years. The global reduction is primarily driven by a decrease in fires in savannas, grasslands, and croplands. Forest, peat, and deforestation fires did not exhibit significant long-term trends. The GFED5 global burned area is 93% higher than MCD64A1, 61% higher than GFED4s, and in closer agreement with products from higher-resolution satellite sensors. These data may reduce discrepancies between fire emission estimates from activity-based and atmospheric-based approaches, and improve our understanding of global fire impacts on the carbon cycle and climate system. The GFED5 global burned area product is freely accessible at 10.5281/zenodo.7668423 (Chen et al., 2023).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5227-5259
Number of pages33
JournalEarth System Science Data
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 28 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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