Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 149-162

First online:

Methane, carbon monoxide and light non-methane hydrocarbon emissions from African savanna burnings during the FOS/DECAFE experiment

  • B. BonsangAffiliated withCentre des Faibles Radioactivités, Domaine du CNRS
  • , C. BoissardAffiliated withCentre des Faibles Radioactivités, Domaine du CNRS
  • , M. F. Le CloarecAffiliated withCentre des Faibles Radioactivités, Domaine du CNRS
  • , J. RudolphAffiliated withInstitüt für Atmosphärische Chemie, Forschungszentrum Jülich
  • , J. P. LacauxAffiliated withCentre de recherches atmosphériques, Campistrous

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Atmospheric samples from savanna burnings were collected in the Ivory Coast during two campaigns in January 1989 and January 1991. About 30 nonmethane hydrocarbons from C2 to C6, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and methane were measured from the background and also at various distances from the burning. Concentrations in the fire plume reached ppmv levels for C2-C4 hydrocarbons, and 5300, 500 and 93 ppmv for CO2, CO and CH4 respectively. The excess in the mixing ratios of these gases above their background level is used to derive emission factors relative to CO and CO2. For the samples collected immediately in the fire plume, a differentiation between high and low combustion efficiency conditions is made by considering the CO/CO2 ratio. Ethene (C2H4), acetylene (C2H2), ethane (C2H6) and propene (C3H6) are the major NMHC produced in the flaming stage, whereas a different pattern with an increasing contribution of alkanes is observed in samples typical of post flaming processes. A strong correlation between methane and carbon monoxide suggests that these compounds are produced during the same stage of the combustion. In samples collected at a distance from the fire and integrated over a period of 30 minutes, the composition is very similar to that of flaming. ΔNMHC/ΔCO2 is of the order of 0.7%, ΔCH4/ΔCO2 of the order of 0.4% and ΔCO/ΔCO2 of the order of 6.3%. From this study, a global production by African savanna fires is derived: 65 Tg of CO-C, 4.2 Tg of CH4-C and 6.7 Tg of NMHC-C. Whereas acetylene can be used as a conservative tracer of the fire plumes, only ethene, propene and butenes can be considered in terms of their direct photochemical impact.

Key words

biomass burning hydrocarbons methane