Climatic Change

, Volume 133, Issue 2, pp 179–192 | Cite as

A global assessment of the carbon cycle and temperature responses to major changes in future fire regime

  • Jean-Sébastien LandryEmail author
  • H. Damon Matthews
  • Navin Ramankutty


Changes in the current fire regime would directly affect carbon cycling, land–atmosphere exchanges, and atmospheric composition, and could therefore modulate the ongoing climate warming. We used a coupled climate–carbon model to quantify the effect of major changes in non-deforestation fires on the global carbon cycle and temperature, from 2015 to 2300. When considering only CO2 fire emissions, the impacts from changes in fire frequency were limited for the global carbon cycle, and almost negligible for the global atmospheric surface temperature. The net fire emissions were only a fraction of the CO2 directly emitted during combustion due to vegetation regrowth and climate–CO2 feedbacks, and the albedo increases caused by changes in vegetation cover countered the effect of increased atmospheric CO2 on global temperature. When employing a simplified approach based on global-mean radiative forcings in order to estimate the impact of non-CO2 fire emissions, the effect of increased fire frequency on global temperature depended critically on the uncertain net aerosol forcing. Despite this major uncertainty, our results overall do not support the hypothesis of a strong positive climate–fire feedback for the coming centuries.


Burned Area Fire Regime Representative Concentration Pathway Fire Scenario Fire Emission 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank M. Eby for providing us with forcing input files, D. Plouffe for helping us create the burned area input file, and J.-F. Rajotte for comments on a previous version of the manuscript. We also thank the five reviewers and the Deputy Editor for their helpful suggestions. Funding was provided by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (J.-S.L.).

Supplementary material

10584_2015_1461_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (383 kb)
(PDF 383 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-Sébastien Landry
    • 1
    Email author
  • H. Damon Matthews
    • 2
  • Navin Ramankutty
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Geography and Global Environmental and Climate Change CentreMcGill UniversityMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Department of Geography, Planning and EnvironmentConcordia UniversityMontréalCanada
  3. 3.Liu Institute for Global Issues and Institute for Resources, Environment, and SustainabilityUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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