Research

My research goal is to understand the connections and feedbacks between fire, land, atmosphere, and climate, as shown schematically in the figure or described in more detail on my fire research page. Fires and climate are the central component of my research. Fires occur when meteorological and vegetation conditions combine in a way to enhance flammability. A flammable landscape alone, however, is not enough to cause fires. The final requirement is an ignition source and this is either a human or a lightning strike.

My main research theme

Once a fire starts, the first impact is on the land through the sudden release of carbon from the burning vegetation and also through the scarring of the land. The carbon released travels into the atmosphere in the form of trace gases (carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, many others) and airborne particulate matter (also known as aerosols). The emissions impact everything from local air quality to regional and global climate. My research into aerosol impacts explores this. Changes in global climate (such as from increasing fossil fuel emissions in present day) or regional climate from fires, affect meteorology and vegetation, which are the prerequisites for fire occurrence. Climate is warming and human population is increasing, so the scientific community is working to better understand the strength of fire feedbacks.

At UNC Charlotte, I primarily study fire processes using biogeophysical modeling and satellite data, but I am continuing to explore more research ideas. For example, I have research related to global lightning both using existing data and derived from new methods. My background is in aerosol physics and chemistry through field measurements, and I also am studying the driving factors of the variability in air quality conditions near Charlotte and the Southeastern USA.

Click on the links page to see examples of the datasets that I use. To support my research, I use model simulations. The models I am most familiar with are the NOAA GFDL Land Model and Atmosphere Model, which are global models and are also components of the GFDL Coupled Model and Earth System Model. Please read over the additional information on the MESAS webpage and email me if you have questions.