Peat wildfires can burn over large areas of peatland, releasing ancient carbon and toxic gases into the atmosphere over prolonged periods. These emissions cause haze episodes of pollution and accelerate climate change. Peat wildfires are characterised by smouldering - the flameless, most persistent type of combustion. Mitigation strategies are needed in arctic, boreal, and tropical areas but are hindered by incomplete scientific understanding of smouldering. Here, we present GAMBUT, the largest and longest to-date field experiment of peat wildfires, conducted in a degraded peatland of Sumatra. Temperature, emission and spread of peat fire were continuously measured over 4-10 days and nights, and three major rainfalls. Measurements of temperature in the soil provide field experimental evidence of lethal fire severity to the biological system of the peat up to 30 cm depth. We report that the temperature of the deep smouldering is 13% hotter than shallow layer during daytime. During night-time, both deep and shallow smouldering had the same level of temperature. The experiment was terminated by suppression with water. Comparison of rainfall with suppression confirms the existence of a critical water column height below which extinction is not possible. GAMBUT provides a unique understanding of peat wildfires at field conditions that can contribute to mitigation strategies.
- fire behaviour