On August 10th, 2017, Environmental Research Letters published a collaborative research effort led by GEOG researchers Kristofer Lasko, Dr. Krishna Vadrevu (NASA/UMD), Dr. Chris Justice, and collaborators from Vietnam National University in Hanoi. The paper is entitled "Satellites may underestimate rice residue and associated burning emissions in Vietnam".


In this study, we estimate rice residue, associated burning emissions, and compare results with existing emissions inventories employing a bottom-up approach. We first estimated field-level post-harvest rice residues, including separate fuel-loading factors for rice straw and rice stubble. Results suggested fuel-loading factors of 0.27 kg m−2 (±0.033), 0.61 kg m−2 (±0.076), and 0.88 kg m−2 (±0.083) for rice straw, stubble, and total post-harvest biomass, respectively. Using these factors, we quantified potential emissions from rice residue burning and compared our estimates with other studies. Our results suggest total rice residue burning emissions as 2.24 Gg PM2.5, 36.54 Gg CO and 567.79 Gg CO2 for Hanoi Province, which are significantly higher than earlier studies. We attribute our higher emission estimates to improved fuel-loading factors; moreover, we infer that some earlier studies relying on residue-to-product ratios could be underestimating rice residue emissions by more than a factor of 2.3 for Hanoi, Vietnam. Using the rice planted area data from the Vietnamese government, and combining our fuel-loading factors, we also estimated rice residue PM2.5 emissions for the entirety of Vietnam and compared these estimates with an existing all-sources emissions inventory, and the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED). Results suggest 75.98 Gg of PM2.5 released from rice residue burning accounting for 12.8% of total emissions for Vietnam. The GFED database suggests 42.56 Gg PM2.5 from biomass burning with 5.62 Gg attributed to agricultural waste burning indicating satellite-based methods may be significantly underestimating emissions. Our results not only provide improved residue and emission estimates, but also highlight the need for emissions mitigation from rice residue burning.

The complete open-access article is available here.