Articles | Volume 14, issue 19
Research article
09 Oct 2014
Research article |  | 09 Oct 2014

Airborne characterization of smoke marker ratios from prescribed burning

A. P. Sullivan, A. A. May, T. Lee, G. R. McMeeking, S. M. Kreidenweis, S. K. Akagi, R. J. Yokelson, S. P. Urbanski, and J. L. Collett Jr.

Abstract. A Particle-Into-Liquid Sampler – Total Organic Carbon (PILS-TOC) and fraction collector system was flown aboard a Twin Otter aircraft sampling prescribed burning emissions in South Carolina in November 2011 to obtain smoke marker measurements. The fraction collector provided 2 min time-integrated offline samples for carbohydrate (i.e., smoke markers levoglucosan, mannosan, and galactosan) analysis by high-performance anion-exchange chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection. Each fire location appeared to have a unique Δlevoglucosan/Δwater-soluble organic carbon (WSOC) ratio (RF01/RF02/RF03/RF05 = 0.163 ± 0.007 μg C μg−1 C, RF08 = 0.115 ± 0.011 μg C μg−1 C, RF09A = 0.072 ± 0.028 μg C μg−1 C, and RF09B = 0.042 ± 0.008 μg C μg−1 C, where RF means research flight). These ratios were comparable to those obtained from controlled laboratory burns and suggested that the emissions sampled during RF01/F02/RF03/RF05 were dominated by the burning of grasses, RF08 by leaves, RF09A by needles, and RF09B by marsh grasses. These findings were further supported by the Δgalactosan/Δlevoglucosan ratios (RF01/RF02/RF03/RF05 = 0.067 ± 0.004 μg μg−1, RF08 = 0.085 ± 0.009 μg μg−1, and RF09A = 0.101 ± 0.029 μg μg−1) obtained as well as by the ground-based fuel and filter sample analyses during RF01/RF02/RF03/RF05. Differences between Δpotassium/Δlevoglucosan ratios obtained for these prescribed fires vs. laboratory-scale measurements suggest that some laboratory burns may not accurately represent potassium emissions from prescribed burns. The Δlevoglucosan/ΔWSOC ratio had no clear dependence on smoke age or fire dynamics suggesting that this ratio is more dependent on the type of fuel being burned. Levoglucosan was stable over a timescale of at least 1.5 h and could be useful to help estimate the air quality impacts of biomass burning.

Final-revised paper