Post-fire changes in net shortwave radiation along a latitudinal gradient in boreal North America

Yufang Jin, James T. Randerson, Michael L. Goulden, Scott J. Goetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Understanding how a changing boreal fire regime is likely to influence regional climate requires detailed information about fire effects on the surface radiation budget. We used time series of satellite observations of surface albedo from 2000-2011 and fire perimeters since 1970 to study post-fire changes in surface net shortwave radiation along a latitudinal transect in central Canada. Fire-induced surface shortwave forcing (SSF) integrated over an annual cycle for the first 30years after fire was similar (-4.1W m-2 with a 95% confidence interval of-4.5 to-3.7W m-2) between southern and northern boreal regions. The lack of a latitudinal difference in SSF was caused by counteracting latitudinal trends in seasonal contributions. Spring (March, April, and May) SSF increased with latitude, from-7.2W m-2 in the south to-10.1W m-2 in the north, primarily because of delayed snow melt, which amplified albedo differences between unburned forests and recovering stands. In contrast, winter incoming solar radiation and summer albedo change decreased from south to north, resulting in a decreasing latitudinal trend in winter and summer SSF. Vegetation recovery was slower in the north, leading to smaller increases in summer albedo during the first decade after fire, and a prolonged phase of elevated spring albedo during the second decade. Our results indicate that fires reduce surface net shortwave radiation considerably for many boreal forest ecosystems in North America, providing further evidence that disturbance-mediated shifts in surface energy exchange need to be considered in efforts to manage these forests for climate change mitigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL13403
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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