This paper suggests a method for improving current inventories of aerosol emissions from biomass burning. The method is based on the hypothesis that, although the total estimates within large regions are correct, the exact spatial and temporal description can be improved. It makes use of open fire detection from the ATSR instrument that is available since 1996. The emissions inventories are re-distributed in space and time according to the occurrence of open fires. Although the method is based on the night-time hot-spot product of the ATSR, other satellite biomass burning proxies (AVHRR, TRMM, GLOBSCAR and GBA2000) show similar distributions.
The impact of the method on the emission inventories is assessed using an aerosol transport model, the results of which are compared to sunphotometer and satellite data. The seasonal cycle of aerosol load in the atmosphere is significantly improved in several regions, in particular South America and Australia. Besides, the use of ATSR fire detection may be used to account for interannual events, as is demonstrated on the large Indonesian fires of 1997, a consequence of the 1997-1998 El Niño. Despite these improvements, there are still some large discrepancies between the simulated and observed aerosol optical thicknesses resulting from biomass burning emissions.