1Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) e.V., Telegraphenberg A31, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
2School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, University Road, Bristol, BS8 1SS, UK
3NCAS-Climate and The Walker Institute for Climate System Research, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Earley Gate, Reading RG6 6BB, UK
4QUEST, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Wills Memorial Building, Queen's Road, Bristol, BS8 1RJ, UK
5Global Vegetation Monitoring Unit, Joint Research Centre Ispra, Italy
*formerly at: School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, University Road, Bristol, BS8 1SS, UK
**formerly at: Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Hans-Knöll-Straße 10, 07701 Jena, Germany
Abstract. A process-based fire regime model (SPITFIRE) has been developed, coupled with ecosystem dynamics in the LPJ Dynamic Global Vegetation Model, and used to explore spatial and temporal patterns of fire regimes and the current impact of fire on the terrestrial carbon cycle and associated emissions of trace atmospheric constituents. The model estimates an average release of 2.24 Pg C yr−1 as CO2 from biomass burning during the 1980s and 1990s. Comparison with observed active fire counts shows that the model reproduces where fire occurs and can mimic broad geographic patterns in the peak fire season, although the predicted peak is 1–2 months late in some regions. Modelled fire season length is generally overestimated by about one month, but shows a realistic pattern of differences among biomes. Comparisons with remotely sensed burnt-area products indicate that the model reproduces broad geographic patterns of annual fractional burnt area over most regions, including the boreal forest, although interannual variability in the boreal zone is underestimated. Overall SPITFIRE produces realistic simulations of spatial and temporal patterns of fire under modern conditions and of the current impact of fire on the terrestrial carbon cycle and associated emissions of trace greenhouse gases and aerosols.