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5.1 Introduction

The Oceania region is dominated by Australia, a fire-prone continent with a large variety of vegetation types and fire regimes. According to the Australia fire report about 115 000 and 230 000 fires per year have been depicted by satellite remote sensing during the fire seasons 1998-1999 and 1999-2000, burning a vegetated area of 31 and 71 million hectares respectively. Earlier evidence suggests that between 50 000 ha and 1 000 000 ha of forested land (or land administered by forestry authorities) have been burned annually by wildfires in the period 1956-1971. The Australia report provides an area of ca. 600 000 ha of forest land burned during the fire season 1983 (ENSO year 1982-1983) and between 500 000 and 600 000 ha per year in the mid 1990s.

The emissions generated by large areas burned have a strongly visible impact on regional and global atmospheric chemistry. Figure 5-1 to Figure 5-3 highlight the very typical fire and emissions situation in Australia in the year 2000. Figure 5-1 shows a satellite image with large burn scars and active fires in early October 2000. Figure 5-2 provides an example of a daily active fire map that is generated in the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) using the geo-referenced dates of active fires depicted by the NOAA AVHRR. Figure 5-3 shows the smoke (aerosol) plume from forest and bush fires in Australia depicted by the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS).

Three country reports from temperate and tropical Oceania cover the most important natural vegetation types, traditional and modern land-use systems, including fire problems in plantations: Australia, Fiji and New Zealand.

Figure 5-1 True-color image taken over northern Australia on 2 October 2000, by the Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), flying aboard NASA’s Terra spacecraft.

The wildfires are visible in the scene, which covers parts of the Northern Territory.

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Figure 5-2 Fire Detection Map for Australia for 4 October 2000 overlaid on a pan-Australian vegetation cover map.

Source: Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC)

The maps are generated daily on the base of fire coordinates of the Satellite Remote Sensing Services Department of Land Administration (DOLA) which are overlaid on a simple vegetation and fuel type map (Luke and McArthur 1977; reference in Australia report). The fire coordinates represent fire events in Western Australia and Northern Territories.

Figure 5-3 Smoke over Australia, 5 October 2000 depicted by the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) products.

Earth Probe TOMS, launched on 2 July 1996, depicts aerosols emitted from vegetation fires, desert dust storms and other sources.

Source: TOMS Global Aerosol Hot Spots Page, NASA GSFC

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