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Project ID: 11-1-5-12

Year: 2011

Date Started: 08/01/2011

Date Completed: 11/02/2014

Title: Measuring the Optical Properties and Climate Impacts of Aerosol from Wild and Prescribed Fires in U.S.

Project Proposal Abstract: Although representing only a small mass fraction of the emissions from biomass burning, black carbon (BC) exerts a strong influence on climate. As a component of the atmospheric aerosol, BC absorbs visible light and warms the adjacent air, potentially altering the vertical temperature profile. If deposited to bright surfaces such as snow, BC may accelerate melting. Biomass burning is a large, but highly variable, global source of BC. Biomass burning emissions of BC are strongly correlated with increased flaming to smoldering ratios and likely correlated with increased combustion intensity, but these effects still need better quantification. A critical issue is that nearly all of the BC emitted by flaming combustion of biomass is found in particles that also contain much larger amounts of organic aerosol (OA) from smoldering combustion. The OA in the particles contributes to atmospheric cooling both directly, by reflecting solar radiation, and indirectly, by serving as cloud condensation nuclei that cause clouds to reflect more solar radiation. The increased solubility of particles containing water soluble OA makes them more likely to be removed from the atmosphere by rainfall. This reduces how long the particle can remain in the atmosphere and effect climate. Because of the co-emitted OA, biomass burning BC likely contributes less to global warming than an equal amount of BC emitted by fossil fuel combustion. In fact, aerosols from biomass burning are thought to have an overall cooling effect on climate, mitigating the warming associated with BC from that source. Further, the possibility that differences in the BC/OA ratio for wild and prescribed fires could lead to different climate impacts needs to be investigated. Any assessment of the climate impacts of biomass burning BC must consider the co-emitted OA. A major barrier to quantifying the climate impact of BC and OA emitted by wild and prescribed fires is that the traditional measurement methods for both BC and OA are filter-based and suffer from poor time resolution and numerous artifacts. We propose to measure the BC and OA emitted by the combustion of biomass with new, more accurate technology as part of an airborne platform that will sample smoke from one or more simulated wild fires at Fort Rucker, AL. The simulated wildfire(s) will be prescribed fires in unusually heavy fuel loads in unmanaged long leaf pine stands in November 2011. This proposal seeks support to augment the airborne laboratory with a soot photometer (SP2), an aerosol mass spectrometer (AMS), and a particle-into-liquid sampler (PILS) that will obtain accurate, high-time-resolution emission factor measurements for BC, OA, water soluble OA, and key smoke marker molecules. The measurements will complement the planned measurements of ozone and greenhouse gases on the aircraft. Based on known problems with earlier measurement methods, BC emissions inventories for prescribed and wild fires may have large errors that can be corrected using the new SP2 mass measurements. The SP2 also measures the BC emission heights, which affect the potential for long range transport; and the degree of coating of BC by other substances such as OA, which affects both aerosol optical properties and how readily the BC is removed in precipitation. Our measurements will represent the first high-resolution airborne BC/OA measurements for SE US wildfire(s). The project would also contribute to a database on plume injection altitudes for wild and prescribed fire. All the results will be incorporated in published, improved assessments of the climate impact of wild and prescribed fires.

Principal Investigator: Sonia M. Kreidenweis

Agency/Organization: Colorado State University

Branch or Dept: Department of Atmospheric Science

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Vincent B. Bogdanski

Colorado State University

Sponsored Programs

Budget Contact

Lisa M. Anaya

Colorado State University

Sponsored Programs

Co-Principal Investigator

Hugh X. Coe

University of Manchester

Centre for Atmospheric Science

Co-Principal Investigator

Gavin R McMeeking

Colorado State University

Department of Atmospheric Science

Co-Principal Investigator

Amy P. Sullivan

Colorado State University

Department of Atmospheric Science

Co-Principal Investigator

Robert J. Yokelson

University of Montana

Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network









Project Deliverables

Final Report view or print

("Results presented in JFSP Final Reports may not have been peer-reviewed and should be interpreted as tentative until published in a peer-reviewed source.")

  ID Type Title
view or print go to website 3413 Journal Article Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
view or print   3560 Journal Article J. Geophys. Res. Atmos.
view or print   3561 Journal Article Atmos. Chem. Phys.
  go to website 7601 Invited Paper/Presentation Smoke Marker Ratios from Controlled Laboratory Burns, Prescribed Burns, and Wildfires
  go to website 7602 Invited Paper/Presentation Investigation of Chemical and Physical Perturbations to Organic Aerosol Present in Biomass Burning P
view or print   7603 Photo Fort Jackson Prescribed Burn November 2011
view or print   7604 Photo Fort Jackson Prescribed Burn November 2011 2
view or print   7605 Photo SCREAM Project Team in Columbia SC
    7318 Invited Paper/Presentation Biomass burning plume evolution during prescribed burns in South Carolina
    7320 Invited Paper/Presentation The physical properties of black carbon and other light-absorbing material emitted from prescribed f
    7321 Invited Paper/Presentation Investigation of Airborne-Based Smoke Marker Ratios from Prescribed Burning
    7322 Invited Paper/Presentation Airborne-Based Carbon Aerosol Observations from Prescribed Burning

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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