Fire Radiative Power (FRP) is related to fire combustion rates and is used to quantify the atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols. FRP over gas flares and wildfires can be retrieved remotely using satellites that observe in shortwave infrared (SWIR) to middle infrared (MIR) wavelengths. Heritage techniques to retrieve FRP developed for wildland fires using the MIR 4 μm radiances have been adapted for the hotter burning gas flares using the SWIR 2 μm observations. Effects of atmosphere, including smoke and aerosols, are assumed to be minimal in these algorithms because of the use of longer than visual wavelengths. Here we use Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) and Landsat 8 observations acquired before and during emergency oil and gas flaring in eastern Saudi Arabia to show that dark, sooty smoke affects both 4 μm and 2 μm observations. While the 2 μm observations used to retrieve gas FRP may be reliable during clear atmospheric conditions, performance is severely impacted by dark smoke. Global remote sensing-based inventories of wildfire and gas flaring need to consider the possibility that soot and dark smoke can potentially lead to an underestimation of FRP over fires.
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