The role of peat fires in shaping future atmospheric composition, the carbon cycle and climate

Peat fires are some of the largest and most persistent fires on Earth. Globally peatlands store approximately 25% of the World’s soil carbon, and therefore fires in these areas threaten to release large amounts of carbon. Large peat fires have been seen in both the tropics, for example the 1997/98 peat fires in Indonesia, as well as in the northern high latitudes. Peat fires release large quantities of carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gases and aerosols, which have wide ranging implications on the climate system, air quality and ecosystems. Peat fires at present are not explicitly incorporated into the INFERNO fire model, and only one Earth system model currently includes them. Therefore, this PhD aims to build a peat fire parametrisation into INFERNO, in order to assess the effects of peat fires on atmospheric composition, the carbon cycle, air quality and climate. This PhD also aims to be able to better represent burnt area in peatland dominated locations, as well as improving estimations of fire emissions.

This PhD receives funding and support from the Met Office, and is co-supervised by Chantelle Burton (Met Office).

Figure References:

Van der Werf, G. R., et al., 2017. Global fire emissions estimates during 1997-2016. Earth System Science Data. 9, 697-720.
Hugelius, G., et al., 2020. Maps of northern peatland extent, depth, carbon storage and nitrogen storage. Dataset version 1.0. Bolin Centre Database.

Cover image: Smoldering peat fire by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region