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Volume 11, issue 12
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 5719–5744, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Special issue: POLARCAT (Polar Study using Aircraft, Remote Sensing, Surface...

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 5719–5744, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 21 Jun 2011

Research article | 21 Jun 2011

An investigation of methods for injecting emissions from boreal wildfires using WRF-Chem during ARCTAS

W. R. Sessions1,*, H. E. Fuelberg1, R. A. Kahn2, and D. M. Winker3 W. R. Sessions et al.
  • 1Department of Meteorology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA
  • 2Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA
  • 3NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Hampton Virginia, USA
  • *present address: Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, California, USA

Abstract. The Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) is considered a "next generation" mesoscale meteorology model. The inclusion of a chemistry module (WRF-Chem) allows transport simulations of chemical and aerosol species such as those observed during NASA's Arctic Research of the Composition of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites (ARCTAS) in 2008. The ARCTAS summer deployment phase during June and July coincided with large boreal wildfires in Saskatchewan and Eastern Russia.

One of the most important aspects of simulating wildfire plume transport is the height at which emissions are injected. WRF-Chem contains an integrated one-dimensional plume rise model to determine the appropriate injection layer. The plume rise model accounts for thermal buoyancy associated with fires and local atmospheric stability. This paper describes a case study of a 10 day period during the Spring phase of ARCTAS. It compares results from the plume model against those of two more traditional injection methods: Injecting within the planetary boundary layer, and in a layer 3–5 km above ground level. Fire locations are satellite derived from the GOES Wildfire Automated Biomass Burning Algorithm (WF_ABBA) and the MODIS thermal hotspot detection. Two methods for preprocessing these fire data are compared: The prep_chem_sources method included with WRF-Chem, and the Naval Research Laboratory's Fire Locating and Monitoring of Burning Emissions (FLAMBE). Results from the simulations are compared with satellite-derived products from the AIRS, MISR and CALIOP sensors.

When FLAMBE provides input to the 1-D plume rise model, the resulting injection heights exhibit the best agreement with satellite-observed injection heights. The FLAMBE-derived heights are more realistic than those utilizing prep_chem_sources. Conversely, when the planetary boundary layer or the 3–5 km a.g.l. layer were filled with emissions, the resulting injection heights exhibit less agreement with observed plume heights. Results indicate that differences in injection heights produce different transport pathways. These differences are especially pronounced in area of strong vertical wind shear and when the integration period is long.

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