Vegetation fires are an integral Earth System process, which is controlled by climate and at the same time impacts climate in multiple ways. As such fires form a feedback mechanism in the Earth System, which might amplify or dampen climate change. The Emmy Noether independent junior group "Fire in the Earth System" aims to quantify the fire-climate feedback by incorporating the integral role of fires into an Earth System Model (MPI-ESM).


The figure on the right (click to enlarge) illustrates exemplary climate relevant impacts in the single compartments of the Earth System: (i) emissions of trace gases in the atmosphere (ii) modification of vegetation distribution (iii) redistributions of nutrients from the land to the ocean surface and (iv) deposition of dark soot on bright snow and ice surfaces.

Projects we are working on:


  • Gitta Lasslop implemented the process based fire model SPITFIRE model into JSBACH. Further developments will explore the use of socioeconomic parameters to improve the representation of the human influence and to investigate the bi-stability of ecosystems in light of fire disturbances.  


Lasslop, G., Thonicke, K., & Kloster, S. (2014). SPITFIRE within the MPI Earth system model: Model development and evaluation. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems, doi:10.1002/2013MS000284


  • Stiig Wilkenskjeld is working on various developments of the global carbon vegetation model JSBACH with a special emphasis on processes that are relevant for fire process modeling. This is done in close  cooperation with the scientific programmers of the "Global Vegetation Modeling" and "Climate-Biogeosphere Interaction" groups.  Recent projects include for example the implementation of a 5 layer soil hydrology scheme developed by the "Terrestrial Hydrology" group into the lastest JSBACH version and the analysis of the consequences of this scheme for the simulated fire activity. Furthermore, Stiig investigated the impact of land use on fire activity and analysed in detail the differences between net and gross land use change for the carbon cycle in the MPI-ESM.


Wilkenskjeld, S., Kloster, S., Pongratz, J., Raddatz, T., & Reick, C. H. (2014). Comparing the influence of net and gross anthropogenic land-use and land-cover changes on the carbon cycle in the MPI-ESM. Biogeosciences11(17), 4817–4828. doi:10.5194/bg-11-4817-2014 


  • Together with Tim Bruecher and Victor Brovkin we investigate fire activity over the Holocene (8000 years before present until today). We compared simulated fire activity to charcoal observations and applied a factorial analysis, that allowed us to understand the single causes for the simulated trends in fire activity in different regions. 


Brücher, T., Brovkin, V., Kloster, S., Marlon, J. R., & Power, M. J. (2014). Comparing modelled fire dynamics with charcoal records for the Holocene. Climate of the Past10(2), 811–824. doi:10.5194/cp-10-811-2014


Kloster, S., Brücher, T., Brovkin, V., & Wilkenskjeld, S. (2014). Controls on fire activity over the Holocene. Climate of the Past Discussions10(6), 4257–4275. doi:10.5194/cpd-10-4257-2014 


  • Andreas Veira is working on the impact of fire emissions heights on climate. He implemented a semi-empirical fire plume height model into ECHAM6-HAM2 and investigated how fire emission heights impact aerosol lifetimes and concentrations in the atmosphere and how this impacts the overall fire climate impact. This project is Andreas' PhD project. 


Veira, A., Kloster, S., Wilkenskjel, S., Remy, S. Fire Emission Heights in the Climate System Part I: Global Plume Height Patterns Simulated by ECHAM6-HAM2, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussion, submitted

Veira, A., Kloster, S., Schutgens, N.A.J., Kaiser, J.W., Fire Emission Heights in the Climate System Part II: Impact on Transport, Black Carbon Concentrations and Radiation, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussion, submitted



  • Jessica Engels investigates snow darkening caused by soot deposition. For this she couples the SNICAR model to ECHAM6-HAM2, which allows an interactive calculation of soot deposition and its impact on snow albedo and snow melt. This project is Jessica's PhD project. Before that Jessica did her master project in our group, working on the seasonality of deforestation fires. 


Engels, J., S. Kloster, Q. Boutgeois, Snow darkening caused by black carbon emitted from fires, Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 16, EGU2014-7090-1, EGU General Assembly 2014.


Engels, J., Seasonality of deforestation fires - A modeling study with the global vegetation model JSBACH, Master Thesis, University of Hamburg, 2012.


  • Iryna Khlystova is working on the integration of satellite fire products into the land model JSBACH. Burned area as observed from satellite will be used as boundary condition in the model. Interactively combined with the fuel load simulated in JSBACH this will allow an estimate of trace gas and aerosol emissions from fires into the atmosphere. Burned area observation will be used from a MODIS based product (GDED3, Giglio et al., 2010) and at a later stage the burned area product of the “Fire ECV” project as part of the ESA climate change initiative (CCI) will be applied. As part of the same initiative Iryna is also involved in the integration of a new landcover dataset into JSBACH. This is done in the "Terrestrial Remote Sensing" group.


Khlystova, I.G., S. Wilkenskjeld, S. Kloster, Fire emissions simulated by prescribing burned area observations in a global vegetation model, Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 16, EGU2014-15581, EGU General Assembly 2014.


  • Andreas Krause investigated within a 2 month internship (February to April 2011) how changes in humidity and biomass thresholds influence the occurrences of fires in the standard JSBACH fire model. Andreas' internship was followed by a master thesis project in 2012. In his master thesis Andreas investigated  the sensitivity of global wildfires to simulated past, present, and future lightning frequency. Andreas is now working on a PhD project in the group of Almut Arneth at KIT. 


Krause, A., Kloster, S., Wilkenskjeld, S., & Paeth, H. (2014). The sensitivity of global wildfires to simulated past, present, and future lightning frequency. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences119(3), 312–322.


  • Stijn Hantson, University of Alcala Spain, visited our group 3 months in summer 2013. Together with Gitta we worked on the human impact on mean fire size utilizing satellite observations and model simulations. 


Hantson, S., Lasslop, G., Kloster, S., Chuvieco, E. (2014), The human impact on global mean fire size, Intern. J. of Wildland Fires, in revision