Articles | Volume 13, issue 6
Research article
15 Mar 2013
Research article |  | 15 Mar 2013

Modeling the South American regional smoke plume: aerosol optical depth variability and surface shortwave flux perturbation

N. E. Rosário, K. M. Longo, S. R. Freitas, M. A. Yamasoe, and R. M. Fonseca

Abstract. Intra-seasonal variability of smoke aerosol optical depth (AOD) and downwelling solar irradiance at the surface during the 2002 biomass burning season in South America was modeled using the Coupled Chemistry-Aerosol-Tracers Transport model with the Brazilian developments on the Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (CCATT-BRAMS). Measurements of total and fine mode fraction (FMF) AOD from the AErosol RObotic NETwork (AERONET) and solar irradiance at the surface from the Solar Radiation Network (SolRad-NET) were used to evaluate model results. In general, the major features associated with AOD evolution over the southern part of the Amazon basin and cerrado ecosystem are captured by the model. The main discrepancies were found for high aerosol loading events. In the northeastern portion of the Amazon basin the model systematically underestimated total AOD, as expected, since smoke contribution is not dominant as it is in the southern portion and emissions other than smoke were not considered in the simulation. Better agreement was obtained comparing the model results with observed FMF AOD, which pointed out the relevance of coarse mode aerosol emission in that region. Likewise, major discrepancies over cerrado during high AOD events were found to be associated with coarse mode aerosol omission in our model. The issue of high aerosol loading events in the southern part of the Amazon was related to difficulties in predicting the smoke AOD field, which was discussed in the context of emissions shortcomings. The Cuiabá cerrado site was the only one where the highest quality AERONET data were unavailable for both total and FMF AOD. Thus, lower quality data were used. Root-mean-square error (RMSE) between the model and observed FMF AOD decreased from 0.34 to 0.19 when extreme AOD events (FMF AOD550 nm ≥ 1.0) and Cuiabá were excluded from the analysis. Downward surface solar irradiance comparisons also followed similar trends when extreme AOD were excluded. This highlights the need to improve modelling of the regional smoke plume in order to enhance the accuracy of the radiative energy budget. An aerosol optical model based on the mean intensive properties of smoke from the southern part of the Amazon basin produced a radiative flux perturbation efficiency (RFPE) of −158 Wm−2/AOD550 nm at noon. This value falls between −154 Wm−2/AOD550 nm and −187 Wm−2/AOD550 nm, the range obtained when spatially varying optical models were considered. The 24 h average surface radiative flux perturbation over the biomass burning season varied from −55 Wm−2 close to smoke sources in the southern part of the Amazon basin and cerrado to −10 Wm−2 in remote regions of the southeast Brazilian coast.

Final-revised paper