Forecasting Global Fire Emissions on Subseasonal to Seasonal (S2S) Time Scales

Yang Chen*, James T. Randerson, Shane R. Coffield, Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, Padhraic Smyth, Casey A. Graff, Douglas C. Morton, Niels Andela, Guido R. van der Werf, Louis Giglio, Lesley E. Ott

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Fire emissions of gases and aerosols alter atmospheric composition and have substantial impacts on climate, ecosystem function, and human health. Warming climate and human expansion in fire-prone landscapes exacerbate fire impacts and call for more effective management tools. Here we developed a global fire forecasting system that predicts monthly emissions using past fire data and climate variables for lead times of 1 to 6 months. Using monthly fire emissions from the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED) as the prediction target, we fit a statistical time series model, the Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average model with eXogenous variables (ARIMAX), in over 1,300 different fire regions. Optimized parameters were then used to forecast future emissions. The forecast system took into account information about region-specific seasonality, long-term trends, recent fire observations, and climate drivers representing both large-scale climate variability and local fire weather. We cross-validated the forecast skill of the system with different combinations of predictors and forecast lead times. The reference model, which combined endogenous and exogenous predictors with a 1 month forecast lead time, explained 52% of the variability in the global fire emissions anomaly, considerably exceeding the performance of a reference model that assumed persistent emissions during the forecast period. The system also successfully resolved detailed spatial patterns of fire emissions anomalies in regions with significant fire activity. This study bridges the gap between the efforts of near-real-time fire forecasts and seasonal fire outlooks and represents a step toward establishing an operational global fire, smoke, and carbon cycle forecasting system.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2019MS001955
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
Issue number9
Early online date24 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


  • autoregression
  • El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO)
  • fire forecasting
  • ocean climate indices
  • statistical model
  • vapor pressure deficit


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