Can rain suppress smoldering peat fire?

Shaorun Lin, Yau Kuen Cheung, Yang Xiao, Xinyan Huang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Smoldering wildfire in peatlands contributes significantly to global carbon emissions and regional haze events. Smoldering fire in peatlands is one of the largest and most persistent fire phenomena on Earth. Here we assess the underlying mechanism of rain in suppressing the smoldering peat fire in the shallow soil layer up to 15 cm deep through laboratory experiments. We show that the minimum rainfall intensity to extinguish the peat fire is roughly 4 mm/h, so that the persistent light rain cannot suppress such smoldering wildfire. The required rain duration, ∆t (min), for extinguishing smoldering peat fire decreases with the rainfall intensities, I (mm/h), as log10∆t = − 1.15log10I + 3.3, and is much longer than that for extinguishing flaming wildfire. We also identify that the required rainfall depth for extinguishing peat fire gradually decreases with the rainfall intensity and approaches a minimum value of 13 mm under violent rain. As rainfall intensity increases, the carbon emission flux from peat fire decreases. Therefore, we conclude that the short-term violent rain is most effective for suppressing the persistent smoldering peat fire. This research helps evaluate the impact of weather on the development of peat fire and improve the prediction of carbon emissions from peat fire with the use of regional weather models.

Original languageEnglish
Article number138468
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2020


  • Carbon emissions
  • Fire suppression
  • Peatland
  • Rainfall intensity
  • Underground fire
  • Wildland fire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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