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Atmospheric Environment 36 (2002) 3779–3792

Air pollutant emissions associated with forest, grassland, and

agricultural burning in Texas
Ann Dennisa, Matthew Fraserb, Stephen Andersonc, David Allena,*
Department of Chemical Engineering and Center for Energy and Environmental Resources, University of Texas at Austin,
Building 133 MC-R7100, Austin, TX 78758, USA
Department of Environmental Science and Engineering, Rice University, Houston, TX, USA
Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, Austin, TX, USA
Received 11 September 2001; accepted 14 February 2002


Outdoor fires, such as wildfires and prescribed burns, can emit substantial amounts of particulate matter and other
pollutants into the atmosphere. In Texas, an inventory of forest, grassland and agricultural burning activities revealed
that fires consumed vegetation on 1.6 and 1.7 million acres of land, in 1996 and 1997, respectively. Emissions from the
fires were estimated based on survey and field data on acres burned and land cover and literature data on fuel
consumption and emission factors. Fire data were allocated spatially by county and temporally by month. While fire
events can cause high transient air pollutant concentrations, for most criteria pollutants, the fire emissions were a
relatively small fraction of the annual emission inventory for the State. For fine particulate matter, however, the annual
emission estimates were 40,000 tons/yr, which is likely to represent a significant fraction of the State’s emission
inventory, especially in the counties where the emissions are concentrated.
r 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Fire; Texas; Emission inventory; Land cover; Particulate matter; Criteria pollutants

1. Introduction emissions. Individually, some of these events are well

documented, but annual frequencies and the spatial
Outdoor fires, such as wildfires and prescribed burns, distribution of fire events are not well characterized. Yet,
can emit substantial amounts of particulate matter (PM) these events may be a significant contributor to PM and
and other pollutants into the atmosphere. These other air pollutant emissions in some regions. In this
emissions may significantly impact air quality on both work, the spatial and temporal distributions of a variety
local and regional scales. Some events are extreme and of different types of fire events are estimated for Texas.
the contributions of fires to air pollutant concentrations These analyses indicate that fire events can be significant
are readily observable. For example, in 1998, fires in contributors to total PM concentrations in areas with
Mexico and Central America consumed an estimated extensive agricultural and forestry activity, such as
3.45 million acres prompting air pollution emergencies Texas.
in dozens of cities and creating smoke traveling as far as Specifically, annual and monthly emission inventories
Florida and North Dakota (NRDC, 1999). More for 2 years are reported. One year (1997) had relatively
commonly, however, fires of various types contribute few extreme weather events with high temperatures and
sporadically and at a moderate level to air pollutant dry conditions. The other year, 1996, had a greater
frequency of extreme weather events. Emissions are
*Corresponding author. reported for PM, PM o10 mm in diameter (PM10), PM
E-mail address: (D. Allen). o2.5 mm in diameter (PM2.5), carbon monoxide (CO),

1352-2310/02/$ - see front matter r 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S 1 3 5 2 - 2 3 1 0 ( 0 2 ) 0 0 2 1 9 - 4
3780 A. Dennis et al. / Atmospheric Environment 36 (2002) 3779–3792

methane (CH4), non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), 2.2. Wildfires

nitrogen oxides (NOx), and ammonia (NH3). The
emissions are reported for several types of fire events, 2.2.1. Estimates of acreage burned
which are defined as follows: Estimates of the acreage burned by wildfires in Texas
during 1996 and 1997 were obtained by surveying the
1. Wildfires: Unwanted and accidentally, maliciously,
agencies listed in Table 1. The significance of each of the
or naturally ignited fires that occur in wildland.
sources of data is indicated by the burned acreage
2. Prescribed burning: Non-agricultural controlled for-
reported by the agency. State and federal agencies
est/understory, grassland, and rangeland manage-
supplied all of the fire records as acreage burned, with
ment fires excluding slash burning.
the exception of the Texas Fire Incident Reporting
3. Slash burning: Planned non-agricultural fires of
System (TEXFIRS). The TEXFIRS (Texas Department
biomass residues resulting from timber harvesting
of Insurance, 1997a, b), a voluntary reporting system for
practices and land clearing operations.
local fire departments, only reports the number of fires
4. Agricultural field burning: Agricultural land clearing
rather than the area burned. For counties that reported
burning, planting preparation burning, stubble burn-
fires, the number of fires was converted into acreage
ing, crop residue/waste burning, and burning of
burned using data on fire size reported by the Depart-
standing fields such as sugarcane.
ment of the Interior (Department of the Interior, 1998;
Dennis, 2000). The average size for fires in rural areas
Finally, the accuracy of the emissions estimates was was assumed to be 1.2 acres and in urban areas, the size
assessed by comparing the fine PM emissions related to was assumed to be 0.25 acres. In addition, not all
fires, estimated for the Houston area, to emissions counties in the state participate in the system. For these
estimated based on the concentration of levoglucosan, a counties, an extrapolation procedure was devised to
molecular tracer for cellulose combustion, found in fine estimate the acreage burned for non-reporting counties
PM (Simoneit et al., 1999). (Dennis, 2000). The extrapolation procedure involved
dividing the state into five regions (Panhandle, North
Central, West, East/Central, and Valley/Far South).
2. Methodology Counties for which data were available in each of these
regions were used to estimate data for other counties in
2.1. Emission inventory overview the same region. Specifically, if data on acres burned in
wildfires were not available for a county, the fraction of
Emissions were estimated by applying the following wildland acres burned was estimated based on the
expression: fraction of wildland burned in other counties in the
Emissions ðlb:Þ ¼ Emission factor ðlb:=tonÞ region. Details are described by Dennis (2000). Texas
had an above average wildfire year in 1996, as is
* Fuel consumption ðtons=acreÞ
reflected by the nearly twice as many acres consumed in
* Area burned ðacresÞ: ð1Þ
1996 than in 1997.
Therefore, the construction of the emissions inventory
involved estimating acreage burned, fuel consumption
2.2.2. Fuel availability
and emission factors. Acreage burned was estimated
To assess fuel availability, the major vegetation types
using county level information on frequency and extent
in the fire location were identified using a land cover
of various fire events. The methods used depended on
the type of fire event, and are documented below. Most
of the data on acreage burned were obtained by
surveying land management agencies. Fuel availability Table 1
Total acres of wildfires reported by various agencies for 1996
was estimated based on landcover mappings of wild-
and 1997
lands and croplands. An extensive database on land-
cover types found in Texas has been reported by Agency Acres burned
Wiedinmyer et al. (2000, 2001) and these data were
1996 1997
used extensively in estimating fuel availability. Fuel
consumption estimates and emission factors were drawn Fish and Wildlife Service 18,310 16,366
from the literature. Finally, the data on acreage burned, National Park Service 1631 366
fuel loadings, and emission factors were assembled into US Forest Service 7937 1317
a Geographical Information System (GIS) to facilitate Texas Fire Incident Reporting System 44,065 28,861
Texas Forest Service—Piney Woods 36,426 8203
manipulation and display of the data. The specific
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 756 1068
methodologies used for each of the major types of fire
Total 109,125 56,181
events are described below.
A. Dennis et al. / Atmospheric Environment 36 (2002) 3779–3792 3781

map described by Wiedinmyer et al. (2001). The data for species mix in the fire area. The coverages and fuel
rural areas in this map are primarily drawn from models in FOFEM were developed using the Society of
landcover maps developed by the Texas Parks and American Foresters cover types (Eyre, 1980) for forested
Wildlife Department (Texas Parks and Wildlife Depart- areas and the Forest-Range Environmental Study
ment, TP&WD, 1998) and field biomass density surveys ecosystem types (Garrison et al., 1977) for shrub and
performed by the University of Texas (Wiedinmyer, grassland areas. The cover types are grouped into four
1999; Wiedinmyer et al., 2000, 2001; Dennis, 2000). The geographic regions. The cover types available in the
landcover data have a spatial resolution of 1 km, regions ‘Interior West’ and ‘South East’, which together
therefore, biomass types available as fuel can either be have 72 different cover types, are suggested for the state
estimated using the exact location of the fire, or by using of Texas. In this work, each of the 600 land cover types
county-average data for biomass density. For the Fish used by Wiedinmyer et al. (2001) to characterize Texas
and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service data, was mapped onto a land cover type in the FOFEM
obtained in GIS format as point locations, biomass model. This resulted in a fuel consumption (tons/acre)
availability could be estimated directly for the precise categorized based on the landcover definitions of
location of these fires. For the remaining data, because Wiedinmyer et al. (2001). Details are described by
the exact burn locations are not known, a distribution of Dennis (2000). The consumption is reported in fuel
the fraction of each wildland cover type in every county components of litter, duff, dead fuel, and live fuel. Dead
was assembled. Then, the acreage burned by county was fuel is broken down into three categories based on
multiplied by the fractions to determine the estimated diameter: Wood 0–1 in, Wood 1–3 in, and Wood 3 in or
acres burned by cover type. greater. Live fuels include herb, shrub, conifer regenera-
tion (regen), and canopy fuel components. Fuel con-
2.2.3. Emission factor sumption for wildfires in Texas ranged from o1 ton/
A variety of emission factors for wildfires were acre to more than 10 tons/acre, depending on the
reviewed, including those available in the US Environ- landcover type.
mental Protection Agency’s AP-42 Documents (1992, The second step in applying FOFEM was to develop
1996a, b), data available from the California Air an emission factor, based on tons of fuel burned. The
Resources Board (1997), the Emission Inventory Im- emission factors selected for wildfire, prescribed and
provement Program (1998, 1999), and data available in slash burning were taken from the combustion efficiency
models developed by the United States Forest Service. algorithms derived by the USFS (Ward et al., 1993) for
The First Order Fire Effects Model (FOFEM 4.0) was PM, PM2.5, PM10, CO, CH4, and NMHC (Table 2).
selected for use in the emissions estimation process These emission factors depend on assumptions of
(Reinhardt et al., 1997). This choice was made based on combustion efficiency. Combustion efficiencies assumed
input required for the models and the desire to use a in this work are reported in the table and the rationale
consistent modeling methodology across source cate- for choosing these values is described at length by
gories. Using FOFEM to estimate emissions, based on Dennis (2000).
acreage burned (sorted by land cover type), involves two Nitrogen containing compounds have been measured
steps. The first step is to use fuel models to estimate the in biomass burning emissions and several emission
fuel consumption. To estimate fuel loading and con- factors are available (Hegg et al., 1989; Ward and
sumption in FOFEM, the user can select a vegetation Hardy, 1991; Yokelson et al., 1997; Lee and Atkins,
cover type (to which a fuel model has been designated), 1994; Dignon and Penner, 1991). The dominant
that best represents the dominant overstory species or nitrogenous species detected are NOx in the flaming

Table 2
Selected hydrocarbon and particulate emission factors (lb/ton) for wildfire, prescribed, and slash burns. The factors were calculated
under dry conditions for each fuel component

Fuel component Average CE Emission factor (lb/ton)


Litter, Wood 0–1 0.95 52 3 6 15 8 9
Wood 1–300 0.92 111 6 9 20 12 14
Wood 3+00 0.89 174 9 12 26 16 19
Herb, shrub, regen 0.85 249 12 16 33 21 25
Duff 0.82 316 15 20 39 26 30
Canopy fuels 0.85 249 12 16 33 21 25
3782 A. Dennis et al. / Atmospheric Environment 36 (2002) 3779–3792

Table 3
Selected nitrogenous emission factors (lb/ton) and parameters used in the calculations by fuel component for wildfire, prescribed and
slash burns

Fuel component Average CE CO2 CO MCE NOx NH3

Litter, Wood 0–100 0.95 3483 52 0.99 2.5 0.5

Wood 1–300 0.92 3373 111 0.97 2.5 1.1
Wood 3+00 0.89 3263 174 0.95 2.5 1.7
Herb, shrub, regen 0.85 3116 249 0.93 2.5 2.6
Duff 0.82 3006 316 0.91 2.5 3.2
Canopy fuels 0.85 3116 249 0.93 2.5 2.6

CE=Combustion Efficiency. MCE=modified combustion efficiency.

phase and NH3 in the smoldering phase of combustion. Table 4

However, the quantity of these nitrogenous compounds Acres consumed in prescribed wildland fire emissions, by
is highly dependent on fuel nitrogen, which is variable agency for 1996 and 1997
between vegetation coverages, from 0.19% to 0.85% Agency Acres burned
(Dignon and Penner, 1991; Lee and Atkins, 1994). There
are few data on nitrogen content in fuel components by 1996 1997
landcover type. Thus, a nitrogen content of 0.7%, which Fish and Wildlife Service 19,212 57,835
is a midrange value and is a value representative of the National Park Service 90 2792
dominant species types in Texas, was selected for all fuel US Forest Service 17,164 63,009
components, across all vegetation types. This is a rough Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 8589 14,991
estimate, due to the lack of information available, and it Private—Piney Woods Region 18,735 22,263
must be emphasized that this emission factor is only a Total 63,790 160,890
first estimate. The NOx emission factor, was assumed to
be proportional to the percent fuel nitrogen, as reported
in Eq. (2) (Dignon and Penner, 1991):
2.3. Prescribed burning on wildlands
EF NOx ðlb=tonÞ ¼ 3 þ 7:8nf ; ð2Þ
2.3.1. Estimates of acreage burned
where nf ¼ 0:7% fuel nitrogen.
Estimates of the acreage consumed in Texas by
A similar relationship, using the percent fuel nitrogen,
prescribed burns on wildlands during 1996 and 1997
has not been developed for ammonia emissions. How-
were obtained by surveying private, state and federal
ever, recognizing that fuel nitrogen will also influence
agencies. The significance of each of the sources of data
ammonia emissions suggests using a molar ratio of NH3
is indicated by the burned acreage reported by the
to NOx to calculate the ammonia emission factor (3)
agency, given in Table 4. In this work, prescribed
(Yokelson et al., 1997).
burning on wildland included any managed fire con-
NH3 ducted for wildland management purposes, such as to
¼ 14½1  MCE; ð3Þ
NOx reduce forest understory, control grassland or shrubland
vegetation, or to improve wildlife habitat. Prescribed
where MCE is the modified combustion efficiency: burning of wildland is primarily conducted by public
DCO2 agencies, even though the majority of Texas lands
MCE ¼ ð4Þ are privately owned. The one exception is in the
Piney Woods region of East Texas where private
and D refers to the measured fire production of a gas industrial and non-industrial timberland is burned.
above background levels. Fire history data were collected from four public
Because this relationship requires CO2 and CO agencies and from an estimate of practices on private
emission factors, in the modified combustion efficiency lands in the Piney Woods region (described in detail
equation, the ammonia emission factors will be different by Dennis, 2000). The acreage collected for 1996 and
for each fuel component since the CO2 and CO emission 1997 shows that two and half times more area was
factors vary with combustion efficiency. The NOx and burned in 1997 than 1996 (Table 4). This may be due
NH3 emission factors used in this work are shown by to the fire prevention activities by public agencies in
fuel component in Table 3. Details of the calculations 1997, in response to an above average wildfire year in
are presented by Dennis (2000). 1996.
A. Dennis et al. / Atmospheric Environment 36 (2002) 3779–3792 3783

2.3.2. Fuel availability and emission factors vegetation type in the county in which the fire occurred
The procedures used to assess fuel availability and was identified using a land cover map described by
emissions were analogous to those used for wildfires. Wiedinmyer et al. (2001). To assign fuel consumption
The major vegetation type in the fire location was values to the data, a procedure identical to that
identified using a land cover map described by Wie- conducted for wildland emissions was completed, except
dinmyer et al. (2001). For the Fish and Wildlife Service cover types and fuel loading appropriate for rangeland
and the National Park Service data, obtained in GIS were selected. The cover types selected had fuel
format as point locations, biomass availability could be consumptions that ranged between 0.3 and 6.7 tons/
estimated directly for the precise location of these fires. acre, mostly in the categories of live herb and shrub
For the remaining data, because the exact burn locations fuels. Emission factors for the fuels were assumed to be
are not known, a distribution of the fraction of each consistent with the emission factors used for wildfires,
wildland cover type in every county was assembled. however, since the fuel availability for rangeland is
Then, the acreage burned by county was multiplied by different than for wildlands, the emissions per acre
the fractions to determine the estimated acres burned by burned were significantly less than for wildfires.
cover type and county. Then, the fuel consumption and
emission factors from FOFEM were used to calculate 2.5. Slash burning
the emissions by reporting agency, county, and month.
2.5.1. Estimates of acreage burned
Two types of slash burning were identified as
2.4. Prescribed burning on rangelands
potentially significant sources of the total outdoor
burning emissions. First, in the Piney Woods Region
2.4.1. Estimates of acreage burned
of East Texas, where commercial timber production
Estimates of the acreage consumed in Texas by
occurs, residue from logging operations is sometimes
prescribed burns on rangelands during 1996 and 1997
burned as part of site preparation practices. Very little
were estimated through a county-level survey to the
documentation on these fires is available, as there is no
Agricultural Extension Service (AEXS). The AEXS assists
centralized reporting outside of individual company
local farmers and ranchers and maintains 250 agricultural
records. Second, the burning of debris from land
extension agents, with one being stationed in nearly every
clearing operations is thought to be problematic in
one of the 254 counties in Texas. A survey was sent to
some areas of the state, particularly in the Piney Woods,
each extension agent to obtain county-level estimates on
where forested land is cleared for development. How-
the number of acres burned during a typical year.
ever, no documentation on these fires or even on land
Identical surveys were also sent to the sheriff of each
clearing practices in general exists. The Outdoor
county, since the sheriff was regarded as a potential source
Burning Rule (Title 30 Texas Administrative Code
of information about local fires. However, the surveys
Sections 111.201–111.221) allows land clearing waste
sent to sheriffs had a low response rate, approximately
combustion where no practical alternative exists (Texas
12%, and were often returned blank, whereas the surveys
Natural Resource Conservation Commission, TNRCC,
to the AEXS had a 67% response rate.
1998). Otherwise, there are no regulations, outside of
County agricultural agents were asked to provide data
local jurisdiction that permit, prohibit or require the
on range burning activities by month. Not all county
recording of slash burning. Nevertheless, an effort was
agents in the State responded, so an extrapolation
made to determine the level of these two types slash
procedure was devised to estimate the acreage burned
burning activities occurring in Texas. Because so little
for non-reporting counties. The extrapolation procedure
information is currently available, the procedures used
involved dividing the state into five regions (Panhandle,
here provide only a first estimate.
North Central, West, East/Central, and Valley/Far
In the East Texas Piney Woods region, approximately
South). For each region, a weighted average fraction
11.8 million acres of forested land is used as commercial
of total rangeland burned was calculated. This was
timberland (Texas Forest Service, TFS, 1999). After
converted to acreage burned per county using the
timber is harvested, several site preparation practices
National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) 1997
may be employed to prepare the cleared land for future
report on estimated range area by county (US Depart-
use. The removal of logging debris, such as stumps and
ment of Agriculture, 1999a-c). Details are described by
branches, is part of a typical site preparation. Often,
Dennis (2000). In total, approximately 867,000 acres of
especially if the area is to be replanted, the logging
range are burned during a typical year.
debris is burned on site. In the East Texas commercial
timberland, individual logging companies and site
2.4.2. Fuel availability and emission factors preparation contractors dominate these burning activity
The procedures used to assess fuel availability were practices. Two large companies dominate logging
analogous to those used for wildfires. The major operations in Texas. Both of these companies were
3784 A. Dennis et al. / Atmospheric Environment 36 (2002) 3779–3792

contacted to determine the degree of logging slash change were assigned zero growth. Finally, applying the
burning. One company, which owns about 1 million growth fractions to the total urban area, an estimated
acres of timberland, estimates that only 1 acre of residue total of 50,200 acres were cleared annually from the 61
out of every 200 acres harvested, or 0.5%, is burned by counties. It was assumed that between 1% and 10% of
the company, a number typical of most large logging the land cleared is burned, resulting in an estimate of
companies (Carroll, 1999). However, smaller companies 500–5000 acres burned for land clearing. Since even the
are thought to burn a higher percentage. The second upper bound on the percentage of acreage burned (10%)
large producer of timber in Texas estimates that their results in estimates of acreage burned that are small
company burns about 15,000–16,000 acres annually, compared to other source categories, the upper bound
which constitutes approximately 70% of harvested land (10% of land cleared is burned) was used. This is, of
to be replanted (Ray, 1999). course, only a very rough estimate, but it provides a
The Harvest Trends Report, an annual Texas Forest preliminary estimate of magnitude of these operations.
Service (TFS) publication, lists the total industrial
timber harvest volume (in cubic feet) by county for pine 2.5.2. Fuel availability and emission factors
and hardwood timber removal, but the estimated area Since the only commercial timberland in the state is in
harvested is not reported (Xu, 1998a, b). The Harvest the Piney Woods region of East Texas, only one fuel
Trends Report does estimate, however, the total acreage type, pine-hardwood mixed forested, is burned in timber
of tree planting by land ownership that occurred in the operations. The fuel consumption was calculated by
entire Piney Woods area during 1996 and 1997. The using the same procedures as employed for wildlands,
forest industry reportedly replanted 85,680 and 78,730 except that all wood types with a diameter >1 in were
acres in 1996 and 1997, respectively. Using the assumed to have been cleared. Fuel consumed was
approximation suggested by one large producer in Texas generally about 10 tons/acre. The first order fire effects
that slash burning occurs on 70% of harvested land that model (FOFEM 4.0) was used to determine the average
is replanted, results in an estimated 59,976 and 55,111 combustion efficiency of each fuel component.
acres of logging slash consumed during 1996 and 1997, For land clearing, the same procedures that were used
respectively. These totals were allocated to the each of in estimating fuel consumption and emissions for
the 43 counties in the region based on the fraction of rangeland were employed, except that fires were
total industrial timberland in each county. The Forest assumed to occur only in the counties with urban areas
Inventory and Analysis database provided the estimated experiencing population growth.
industrial timberland area by county (USFS, 1999).
In addition to slash burning for timber replanting, 2.6. Agricultural field burning
burning of debris from land clearing operations is
sometimes used as a way to rapidly remove a large 2.6.1. Estimates of acreage burned
quantity of waste. Because there are no permits required Agricultural waste, typically crop residues, can be
for slash burning in Texas, other than on a local level, managed in a number of ways. Depending on the crop
determining the level of activity can be long and type, waste can be tilled or plowed back into the field,
complicated process. Due to lack of data, and in order taken to a compost or landfill, used as supplemental
to provide a first estimate of the acres cleared from land feed, or burned directly in the field. The burning of crops
clearing operations, an estimation procedure was residue is thought to be the least frequent disposal
devised based on population growth. That is, the method, except for sugarcane. In the US, wheat, rice,
number of acres cleared is estimated by applying the sugarcane, peanut, soybeans, barley, and corn are
fraction of annual population growth to the urban area thought to have the most significant burning activity.
in each county (5). National inventories, including the US Greenhouse Gas
Emission Inventory and the National Emissions Trends,
Estimated acres cleared ¼ Fraction population growth estimate that 3% of all crop residues is burned annually
* acres urban area: ð5Þ (EPA, 1998). However, the largest source of uncertainty
in these emission inventories is the estimated fraction of
First, the composite landcover database described by crop residue burned each year because few states collect
Wiedinmyer et al. (2001), was used to determine the such information and agricultural and burning practices
total urban area in each county. Only 66 of the 254 vary widely from state to state. Since Texas does not
counties had significant urban areas. Next, census data maintain any records on crop burning activity, survey
for 1996 and 1997 populations by county were data from the AEXS were used to estimate the fraction
assembled (US Census Bureau, 1999). After calculating of residue burned in each county.
the fraction of population change for each county, 61 The data requested from the agricultural extension
counties of the 66 were found to have experienced agents included the number of fires and acres burned
growth. The five counties with negative population monthly during a typical year for a crop type specified
A. Dennis et al. / Atmospheric Environment 36 (2002) 3779–3792 3785

by the agent. Next, after inspection of the survey data, a is most likely of wheat, corn, and hay/grass residues
list of reported crop types was compiled. Grasses, such since these crops were the most frequently reported on
as ‘hay pasture’ and ‘Bermuda grass’, were collectively the surveys.
grouped together into a ‘Hay’ crop type. This category Not all counties reported data, so the burning activity
also included Conservation Reserve Program lands, for crops in non-reporting counties was estimated by
forage, and unspecified pasture grass. The most frequent extrapolating the reported data. The first step in the
crop residues for which burning activities were reported extrapolation procedure was to determine the number of
were wheat, hay/grasses, and corn. The other crop types acres burned by month of each crop (wheat, corn, and
burned were milo, oats, rice, sorghum, and sugarcane. hay/grasses burning). The fraction of the harvested acres
Four counties reported ‘agricultural land clearing that were burned was determined for each crop in each
debris’. The majority of agricultural burning in the state of five regions in the State using county data on crop
harvests available from the Texas Agricultural Statistics
Service (TASS, 1999). This fraction, for each crop, in
each region, was averaged and the appropriate average
Table 5 value was extrapolated to non-reporting counties. The
Total acres burned and fuel loading values used to estimate fraction of acres burned, by crop, in each county was
agricultural burning emissions multiplied by the acres of crop harvested to yield acreage
burned, given in Table 5. Table 6 reports the emission
Crop Estimated Percent of Fuel load
residue acres acres (tons/acre) factors by crop type and Table 7 lists the estimated
burned harvested emissions, based on the acreage burned and the emission
Corn 131,203 7 4.2 Sugarcane residue, consisting of the tops and leaves of
Hay/grass 148,584 3 1.0 the sugarcane plant, is typically burned in the field as a
Sugarcane 17,195 64 2.7
regular crop management practice, either a few days
Wheat 220,633 8 1.9
before or after each harvest, which normally falls
between November and March. Only three counties in
the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas grow sugarcane:
Table 6 Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy. These counties collec-
Emission factors selected for crop residue burning tively harvested approximately 34,600 and 26,688 acres
Pollutant Crop residue emission factors (lb/ton) of sugarcane in 1996 and 1997, respectively (USDA,
1999a). Because the burning of sugarcane residue has no
Corn Hay/ Wheat and technically or economically feasible alternative, the
grassesa sugarcaneb practice is allowed in Texas within guidelines established
CO 80.3 204.3 76.4 by the TNRCC to ensure safe burning (TNRCC, 1998).
NOx 3.7 5.1 5.8 Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers’ Association
NH3a 1.6 6.7 2.1 (1998), a farmer’s cooperative, regulates the burning
CH4 3.4 6.3 0.9 activity in conjunction with the TNRCC. During each
NMHC 9.7 32.7 4.8 season, the sugar growers burn only on days when
PM 9.6 17.6 9.0 meteorological conditions are satisfactory as authorized
PM10 9.4 17.4 8.8 by the TNRCC. The sugar growers keep records of
PM2.5 9.1 16.9 8.3
weather conditions during authorized burning days, the
Based on barley straw emission factors. crop areas burned, as well as the estimated fuel loading
Based on wheat straw emission factors. available to each burn.

Table 7
Estimated annual emissions from agricultural burning source categories during a typical year

Crop residue Emissions (short tons/yr)


Corn 22,136 931 2667 2634 2595 2502 1030 399

Hay/grasses 15,178 470 2431 1306 1293 1257 382 501
Sugarcane 1773 20 111 209 205 194 134 50
Wheat 16,014 184 1006 1886 1849 1748 1211 449
Total 55,000 1600 6200 6000 5900 5700 2800 1400
3786 A. Dennis et al. / Atmospheric Environment 36 (2002) 3779–3792

The Growers’ Association reported a total of 17,195 Sugar Growers’ Association. For corn, hay/pasture, and
acres of residue burned during the 1997 season (data for wheat crop residues, the fuel loads, which ranged from 1
1996 were not available; Rio Grande Valley Sugar to 4 tons/acre, were estimated from the EPA’s AP-42
Growers’ Association, 1998). Normalizing by the annual Document (1992).
acreage harvested in all the counties (26,688 acres), it
was found that approximately 64% of residues from
harvested acres were burned during the year. The acres
3. Results and discussion
harvested in each county were multiplied by this fraction
to estimate the acres burned for each individual county
The total annual acreage burned in wildfires, pre-
(Table 8).
scribed wildfires, prescribed rangeland fires, agricultural
fires, and slash burns, for 1996 and 1997 are reported in
2.6.2. Fuel availability and emission factors Table 9. Tables 10 and 11 report the estimated emissions
Emission factors specific to crop types are reported in from these activities. Examination of Tables 9–11
Chapter 2.5 of AP-42 (EPA, 1992), but these factors are suggests that prescribed range burning contributes over
given a ‘D’ rating indicating that the factors are of below half of the total emissions associated with burning
average quality, and are therefore not used in this operations, with estimated emissions approximately 5
inventory. The University of California at Davis derived times greater than other source categories. This is due in
specific factors for corn stover, and wheat, barley, and part to the large acreage burned, but higher fuel
rice straw combustion for the California Air Resources consumption per acre (especially compared to agricul-
Board (CARB, 1997; Jenkins et al., 1996). However, tural operations) also makes a contribution.
because the CARB did not report on hay, pasture Emissions due to burning operations are not dis-
grasses, or sugarcane emissions, the factors for these tributed uniformly throughout the state. Fig. 1 shows
residues were taken from the crop type thought to be the the PM2.5 emission distributions from all categories of
closest representation and by comparing the older burning operations, expressed as tons/mile2. Similar
emission factors found in AP-42. Ultimately, the barley distributions would be obtained for the other pollutants,
straw factor was chosen for hay/grasses, and the wheat since the emissions are all linearly dependent on fuel
straw factor was selected for sugarcane. The final
emission factors used in this work are listed in Table 8.
The fuel loading value selected for sugarcane burning Table 9
is the average load of values reported by the Rio Grande Total estimated acres burned by source category during 1996
and 1997

Table 8 Source category Acres burned

Annual acres sugarcane harvested and burned during the 1997
1996 1997
growing season. Allocated by county using the Rio Grande
Sugar Growers’ Association reports and the NASS crop Wildfire 109,125 56,181
production data Prescribed wildland 63,790 160,890
Prescribed range 867,053 867,053
County Acres harvested Annual acres burned
Agricultural 517,616 517,616
Cameron 9726 6266 Logging slash 59,976 55,111
Hidalgo 14,582 9395 Land clearing slash 5020 5020
Willacy 2380 1533 Total 1,622,579 1,661,871

Table 10
Annual emissions estimates for all source categories during 1996

Source category Emissions (short tons/yr)


Wildfire 47,969 2317 3170 6449 4900 4152 510 428

Prescribed wildland 29,233 1416 1940 3951 2998 2539 316 232
Prescribed range 323,508 15,542 21,145 42,671 32,617 27,642 3232 3312
Agricultural 55,101 1606 6215 6035 5942 5700 2758 1398
Logging slash 49,203 2371 3236 6559 4997 4235 509 192
Land clearing slash 2528 129 21 11 5 2 0 0
Total 510,000 23,000 36,000 66,000 51,000 44,000 7300 5600
A. Dennis et al. / Atmospheric Environment 36 (2002) 3779–3792 3787

consumed per county and the pollutant specific emission

factor. East Texas exhibits the most concentrated
emissions. Counties in the Panhandle, Central Texas,
and parts of South Texas also have high emissions.
More insight regarding the contributors to the
emissions can be gained from examining the spatial
and temporal distribution of the emissions from
individual source categories. Figs. 2–10 show the spatial
and temporal distributions of PM2.5 emissions from
wildfires, prescribed wildfires, prescribed rangeland fires,
agricultural operations and slash burns, for 1996.
The spatial distributions show that wildfires, pre-
scribed burns of wildlands and slash burning are most
heavily concentrated in the heavily forested lands in the
eastern half of Texas. In contrast, agricultural burning
activities are concentrated in the Panhandle region.
Rangeland prescribed burns are distributed throughout
west and west Central Texas.
Fig. 1. Spatial allocation of annual PM2.5 emission density The temporal distributions also differ among the
(short tons/mile2) from all source categories associated with source categories. Prescribed fires on rangeland, the
fires during 1996. largest source of emissions, are most significant during

Table 11
Annual emissions estimates for all source categories during 1997

Source category Emissions (short tons/yr)


Wildfire 24,341 1173 1602 3248 2474 2096 253 191

Prescribed wildland 80,690 3901 5339 10,874 8255 6996 864 601
Prescribed range 323,508 15,542 21,145 42,671 32,617 27,642 3232 3312
Agricultural 55,101 1606 6215 6035 5942 5700 2758 1398
Logging slash 45,212 2179 2973 6027 4592 3891 468 177
Land clearing slash 2528 129 21 11 5 2 0 0
Total 530,000 25,000 37,000 69,000 54,000 46,000 7600 5700

PM2.5 Emissions (short tons)


1.000 1996





Fig. 2. Temporal distribution of PM2.5 emission estimates from wildfires during 1996 and 1997.
3788 A. Dennis et al. / Atmospheric Environment 36 (2002) 3779–3792

the winter. In contrast, the monthly distribution of manuscript, however, an indication of the reliability of
wildfires and agricultural burning, shown in Figs. 4 and these data can be obtained by comparing the emission
8, can be significant in virtually any month. For inventory to ambient observations of pollutant concen-
agricultural burning, the specific crop residuals that trations. For CO, CH4, NMHC, and NOx, the
are burned vary seasonally. Fig. 8 shows that corn and contributions from fires are difficult to distinguish
sugarcane residues are burned primarily in the winter, chemically from other sources, and are generally small
while wheat is burned primarily in the late spring and in magnitude relative to other sources. For example, the
early summer. statewide annual emissions of NOx are approximately
The emissions data presented in Tables 8–10 and in 106 tons/yr (EPA, 2000), compared to 7000 tons/yr from
Figs. 2–10 have significant uncertainty associated with all burning activities. The annual emissions of NMHC
them. The uncertainties are due to uncertainties in the from anthropogenic and biogenic sources are well in
frequency and extent of fires, the landcover character- excess of 106 tons/yr, compared to 40,000 tons/yr from
izations, the fuel loadings and the emission factors. A all burning activities. For CO, the total emissions due to
detailed uncertainty analysis is beyond the scope of this fires may approach 10% of the statewide inventory

Fig. 5. Spatial allocation of annual PM2.5 emission density

Fig. 3. Spatial allocation of annual PM2.5 emission density (short tons/mile2) from prescribed burning of wildland during
(short tons/mile2) from wildfires during 1996. 1996.

PM2.5 Emissions (short tons)


1.000 1996





Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Fig. 4. Temporal distribution of PM2.5 emission estimates from prescribed fires on wildland reported by state and federal agencies
during 1996 and 1997. (Fires occurring on private lands are not included as only annual data were available.)
A. Dennis et al. / Atmospheric Environment 36 (2002) 3779–3792 3789


PM2.5 Emissions (short tons)






Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Fig. 6. Temporal distribution of PM2.5 emission estimates from prescribed burning of rangeland during a typical year.

and 92 ng/m3 for composite samples collected in the

spring, summer and winter, respectively. This seasonal
distribution is consistent with the seasonal distribution
predicted by the emission inventory. The contribution
of fires to PM concentrations can be assessed by
assuming that levoglucosan represents 15–30% of the
fine PM mass emitted from wood fires (Schauer, 1998),
and that average annual concentrations of fine PM are
15 mg/m3 (Tropp et al., 1998). For an annual average
levoglucosan concentration of 40 ng/m3, an annual
average of 0.2 mg/m3 can be attributed to fires. This
represents approximately 1% of the annual average fine
PM concentration.
A preliminary estimate of the magnitude of fine PM
emissions from fires can also be derived from the
levoglucosan measurements. Assume that approxi-
mately half of the elemental carbon in the fine PM in
the Houston area (1.6 mg/m3 annual average elemental
Fig. 7. Spatial allocation of annual PM2.5 emission density carbon concentration; analytical procedures for these
(short tons/mile2) from prescribed burning of rangeland from a elemental carbon measurements are provided by Tropp
typical year. et al., 1998) is derived from diesel fuel combustion. This
is generated by the combustion of 1,000,000 kg/day of
diesel fuel combustion (Texas Comptrollers Office,
(500,000 tons/yr out of 5  106 tons/yr from all sources), 2000), which results in the formation of 0.6 g of
but the CO emissions from fires are not easily elemental carbon per kg fuel burned (Fraser et al.,
distinguishable from CO from fossil, anthropogenic 2002). Therefore, an emission rate of approximately
sources. 600 kg/day of elemental carbon is associated with
In contrast, the emissions of fine PM from fires can be elemental carbon concentrations that are roughly 4
distinguished chemically from other sources, and may be times the concentrations of fine PM associated with
significant relative to other sources (no statewide burning activities. Therefore, an approximate emission
inventory data are currently available). The feature that rate expected for fine PM from fires in the Houston area
distinguishes the particulate emissions from fires chemi- is 100–200 kg/day. The estimated annual emissions from
cally is a molecular marker of cellulose combustion, fires in Harris County (includes all of urban Houston
levoglucosan. Fraser and Yue (2001) made measure- and some surrounding rural lands) is 100 tons/yr or
ments of levoglucosan at three sites in the Houston area, 0.3 tons/day (300 kg/day). This is slightly higher than the
using seasonal composites of samples taken every 6 days estimate based on levoglucosan concentrations and
over a year long period (Tropp et al., 1998). Fraser and other estimates, but is certainly within the range of
Yue (2001) found concentrations averaging 13, 18 uncertainty associated with the calculations.
3790 A. Dennis et al. / Atmospheric Environment 36 (2002) 3779–3792


PM2.5 Emissions (short tons)
1200 WHEAT




Fig. 8. Temporal allocation of PM2.5 emission estimates during a typical year for agricultural burning source categories.

Fig. 9. Spatial allocation of annual PM2.5 emission density Fig. 10. Spatial allocation of annual PM2.5 emission density
(short tons/mile2) from agricultural burning for a typical year. (short tons/mile2) from logging slash burning during 1996.

This calculation also suggests that fires may be a of forest, grassland and agricultural burning activities
significant contributor to fine PM emissions statewide. revealed that fires consumed vegetation on 1.6 and 1.7
Fires appear to account for about 1% of the mass found million acres of land, in 1996 and 1997, respectively. For
in fine PM in urban Houston, where fire emissions are most criteria pollutants, the fire emissions were a
low and contributions from other sources (such as diesel relatively small fraction of the total emission inventory
fuel combustion) are high. for the State. For fine PM, however, the annual emission
estimates were 40,000 tons/yr, which is likely to repre-
4. Conclusions sent a significant fraction of the State’s emission
inventory, especially in the counties where the emissions
Outdoor fires, such as wildfires and prescribed burns, are concentrated.
can emit substantial amounts of PM and other Uncertainties in the emission inventory arise from
pollutants into the atmosphere. In Texas, an inventory uncertainties in emissions factors taken from the
A. Dennis et al. / Atmospheric Environment 36 (2002) 3779–3792 3791

literature, uncertainties in fuel consumption estimates Proceedings of the National Air and Waste Management
and uncertainties in area burned. Any one of these Association, June 25–30, Anaheim, CA, Pittsburgh, PA,
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and forest biomass by wind tunnel simulations, Vol. 2.
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Results, Cereal Crop Residues. California Air Resources
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Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 1999. Scorched
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This work was funded by the Texas Natural Resource practices by Temple-Inland.
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