Articles | Volume 13, issue 18
Research article
16 Sep 2013
Research article |  | 16 Sep 2013

Airborne hydrogen cyanide measurements using a chemical ionisation mass spectrometer for the plume identification of biomass burning forest fires

M. Le Breton, A. Bacak, J. B. A. Muller, S. J. O'Shea, P. Xiao, M. N. R. Ashfold, M. C. Cooke, R. Batt, D. E. Shallcross, D. E. Oram, G. Forster, S. J.-B. Bauguitte, P. I. Palmer, M. Parrington, A. C. Lewis, J. D. Lee, and C. J. Percival

Abstract. A chemical ionisation mass spectrometer (CIMS) was developed for measuring hydrogen cyanide (HCN) from biomass burning events in Canada using I reagent ions on board the FAAM BAe-146 research aircraft during the BORTAS campaign in 2011. The ionisation scheme enabled highly sensitive measurements at 1 Hz frequency through biomass burning plumes in the troposphere.

A strong correlation between the HCN, carbon monoxide (CO) and acetonitrile (CH3CN) was observed, indicating the potential of HCN as a biomass burning (BB) marker. A plume was defined as being 6 standard deviations above background for the flights. This method was compared with a number of alternative plume-defining techniques employing CO and CH3CN measurements. The 6-sigma technique produced the highest R2 values for correlations with CO. A normalised excess mixing ratio (NEMR) of 3.68 ± 0.149 pptv ppbv−1 was calculated, which is within the range quoted in previous research (Hornbrook et al., 2011). The global tropospheric model STOCHEM-CRI incorporated both the observed ratio and extreme ratios derived from other studies to generate global emission totals of HCN via biomass burning. Using the ratio derived from this work, the emission total for HCN from BB was 0.92 Tg (N) yr−1.

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