Related Research Areas
Atmospheric Composition

Biomass burning (BB) is a major source of trace gases and aerosol in the atmosphere. Forest fires in the boreal region cause a considerable perturbation to the atmospheric composition during the northern hemisphere spring to fall period, and are known to affect visibility, air quality and radiative properties of the atmospheric layers in the area of the fire event as well as far downwind. Boreal forest fires can have very different characteristics and vary in size, severity, and evolution and transport patterns of the resultant smoke plumes. The location and time of the fire, type of burning vegetation, as well as environmental and weather conditions have all been noticed to affect the properties of the fire and the development of the smoke plumes. We propose a 3-year study in which we will use a suite of satellite, surface, airborne and in situ-measurements of aerosol properties combined with the biomass burning emission simulations in a global aerosol model to achieve the following objectives: 1. Evaluate the interplay between the three components of the fire event: (i) the characteristics of the burning ecosystem, (ii) environmental conditions preceding and during the fire, and (iii) characteristics of the fire itself, to establish quantitative and qualitative relationships between these parameters to further describe the development of the smoke plume; 2. Examine the transport patterns of different plumes and determine relationships between environmental conditions and major transport patterns. This project will build on work currently under way in which we are developing a parameterization for a global aerosol model, the Goddard Chemistry Aerosol Radiation and Transport (GOCART) model, to estimate BB emission injection heights considering biomass type and lower atmospheric stability and moisture. In the proposed work, we will considerably expand the range of environmental and ecosystem parameters as well as fire characteristics to be studied. Besides, we will focus on biomass burning in the Northern hemisphere during March-August 2008, with a specific interest in boreal forest fires, which will allow for a more rigorous investigation of individual fire cases. A range of satellite- and ground-based aerosol observations is available for this period and region, as well as an extensive suite of in-situ BB emission measurements in North America during the ARCTAS campaign. These observations and measurements will be used to estimate fire locations and severity (MODIS), plume heights (CALIPSO, MISR) and their horizontal as well as vertical extent during transport (MISR, MODIS, CALIPSO, OMI, MPLNet lidars). We will use the GOCART model as our main tool for consolidating necessary meteorological, ecosystem and fire parameters and simulating BB plume behavior and transport patterns. Model-calculated aerosol optical depth (AOD) will be compared to the observed total column AOD from the AERONET network and space-borne instruments (MODIS, MISR). The Goddard Kinematic Trajectory Model will be used for simulating back trajectories at the locations downwind from the fire events to estimate the relative contribution of the transported aerosol to the overall aerosol load. Such comparisons of aerosol properties in locations remote from the fires will help evaluate GOCART performance in aerosol processing during long-range transport. The results of this project will help us better understand how environmental factors affect the evolution and transport of the smoke plumes, which will contribute to our ability to estimate and predict fire and smoke behavior in the regions where the observations are missing, and will provide methodology for similar studies in the biomass burning regions outside of boreal forests. This will lead to improved simulations of aerosol processes in climate and air quality models, which is especially vital now that biomass burning activity has been found to be related to climate change.

Project PI: N Harshvardhan/Purdue University

Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, Purdue University 550 Stadium Mall Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907 USA

Phone: (765) 494-3258

Fax: (765) 496-1210

Email: harshvar @


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Started: Sep 03, 2010

Last Activity: Feb 02, 2011


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