Articles | Volume 14, issue 14
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 14, 7195–7211, 2014
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-14-7195-2014
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 14, 7195–7211, 2014
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-14-7195-2014

Research article 16 Jul 2014

Research article | 16 Jul 2014

Top-down estimates of biomass burning emissions of black carbon in the Western United States

Y. H. Mao1, Q. B. Li2,1, D. Chen*,2,1, L. Zhang1, W.-M. Hao3, and K.-N. Liou2,1 Y. H. Mao et al.
  • 1Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
  • 2Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
  • 3Fire Sciences Laboratory, US Forest Service, Missoula, MT 59808, USA
  • *now at: National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO 80307, USA
  • **now at: Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80302, USA

Abstract. We estimate biomass burning and anthropogenic emissions of black carbon (BC) in the western US for May–October 2006 by inverting surface BC concentrations from the Interagency Monitoring of PROtected Visual Environment (IMPROVE) network using a global chemical transport model. We first use active fire counts from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to improve the spatiotemporal distributions of the biomass burning BC emissions from the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFEDv2). The adjustment primarily shifts emissions from late to middle and early summer (a 33% decrease in September–October and a 56% increase in June–August) and leads to appreciable increases in modeled surface BC concentrations in early and middle summer, especially at the 1–2 and 2–3 km altitude ranges. We then conduct analytical inversions at both 2° × 2.5° and 0.5° × 0.667° (nested over North America) horizontal resolutions. The a posteriori biomass burning BC emissions for July–September are 31.7 Gg at 2° × 2.5° (an increase by a factor of 4.7) and 19.2 Gg at 0.5° × 0.667° (an increase by a factor of 2.8). The inversion results are rather sensitive to model resolution. The a posteriori biomass burning emissions at the two model resolutions differ by a factor of ~6 in California and the Southwest and by a factor of 2 in the Pacific Northwest. The corresponding a posteriori anthropogenic BC emissions are 9.1 Gg at 2° × 2.5° (a decrease of 48%) and 11.2 Gg at 0.5° × 0.667° (a decrease of 36%). Simulated surface BC concentrations with the a posteriori emissions capture the observed major fire episodes at most sites and the substantial enhancements at the 1–2 and 2–3 km altitude ranges. The a posteriori emissions also lead to large bias reductions (by ~30% on average at both model resolutions) in modeled surface BC concentrations and significantly better agreement with observations (increases in Taylor skill scores of 95% at 2° × 2.5° and 42 % at 0.5° × 0.667°).

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