USDA Forest Service

Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team


Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team
Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory

400 N 34th Street, Suite 201
Seattle, WA 98103

(206) 732-7800

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United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

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Icon of magnifying glassQuantifying Carbon Emissions from Wildfire for North America

WIldfires affect the carbon cycle in both the short and long term. Emissions from wildfires are a significant carbon source, and play a complex role in the radiative forcing associated with climate change (McKenzie et al. 2014). In the longer term, changes in fire regimes interact with forest productivity and affect carbon sequestration (Raymond and McKenzie 2012, 2013).

FERA scientists are co-investigators in a collaborative project linking remote sensing and ground-based products to estimate carbon emissions from wildfires across North America with a web-based decision support system (DSS)

FERA’s involvement has been to:

  1. Develop Fuel Characteristic Classification System (FCCS) fuelbeds for the conterminous United States (CONUS) and Alaska
  2. Upgrade the existing fuelbed map for the CONUS, and build one for Alaska
  3. Provide a geospatial data layer of fuel loadings for use in the DSS that will enable users to calculate carbon emissions from fires anywhere in North America.

We completed fuels maps for the conterminous United States and Alaska, and have linked Consume 3.0 into the DSS for consumption and emissions calculations. The Canadian Forest Service will supply fuels data for their landscapes, as will the Mexican Forest Service, guided by FERA’s Ernesto Alvarado. Together this will provide a wall-to-wall coverage of FCCS fuelbeds across North America. 

FERA scientists Don McKenzie and Roger Ottmar, with collaborator Nancy French, are actively seeking further opportunities to enhance these fuelbed maps using NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) products to represent the spatial variability of fuel loadings within and among fuelbeds across North America.

McKenzie, Donald; French, Nancy H.F.; Ottmar, Roger D. 2012. National database for calculating fuel available to wildfires. Eos. 93(6): 57-58.


McKenzie, Donald; Shankar, Uma; Keane, Robert E.; Stavros, E. Natasha; Heilman, Warren E.; Fox, Douglas G.; Riebau, Allen C. 2014. Smoke consequences of new fire regimes driven by climate change. Earth’s Future. DOI: 10.1002/2014EF000019


Raymond, Crystal L.; McKenzie, Donald. 2012. Carbon dynamics of forests in Washington, U.S: projections for the 21st century based on climate-driven changes in fire regime. Ecological Applications 22:1589-1611.


Raymond, Crystal L.; McKenzie, Donald. 2013. Temporal carbon dynamics of forests in Washington, U.S.: implications for ecological theory and carbon management. Forest Ecology and Management. 310: 796-811.


Project Leads: Don McKenzie and Roger Ottmar

Collaborators: Our co-principal investigator is Dr. Nancy French of the Michigan Tech Research Institute, Michigan Technological University. Collaborators include Dr. Eric Kasischke (University of Maryland), and William de Groot, Canadian Forest Service.

FERA Research Team Members Involved in This Research

Don McKenzie (spatial analysis and mapping)
Roger Ottmar (fuel characterization)
Ernesto Alvarado (fire & fuels in Mexico)
Maureen Kennedy (vegetation modeling)
Kjell Swedin (computing)
Rob Norheim (GIS analysis)
Anne Andreu (fuelbeds in the eastern U.S. and Alaska)
Jorge Castro (fuelbeds in Mexico)

This research is funded by National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA)

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