Articles | Volume 15, issue 23
Research article
07 Dec 2015
Research article |  | 07 Dec 2015

Biomass burning emissions of trace gases and particles in marine air at Cape Grim, Tasmania

S. J. Lawson, M. D. Keywood, I. E. Galbally, J. L. Gras, J. M. Cainey, M. E. Cope, P. B. Krummel, P. J. Fraser, L. P. Steele, S. T. Bentley, C. P. Meyer, Z. Ristovski, and A. H. Goldstein

Abstract. Biomass burning (BB) plumes were measured at the Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station during the 2006 Precursors to Particles campaign, when emissions from a fire on nearby Robbins Island impacted the station. Measurements made included non-methane organic compounds (NMOCs) (PTR-MS), particle number size distribution, condensation nuclei (CN) > 3 nm, black carbon (BC) concentration, cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) number, ozone (O3), methane (CH4), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen (H2), carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), halocarbons and meteorology.

During the first plume strike event (BB1), a 4 h enhancement of CO (max ~ 2100 ppb), BC (~ 1400 ng m-3) and particles > 3 nm (~ 13 000 cm-3) with dominant particle mode of 120 nm were observed overnight. A wind direction change lead to a dramatic reduction in BB tracers and a drop in the dominant particle mode to 50 nm. The dominant mode increased in size to 80 nm over 5 h in calm sunny conditions, accompanied by an increase in ozone. Due to an enhancement in BC but not CO during particle growth, the presence of BB emissions during this period could not be confirmed.

The ability of particles > 80 nm (CN80) to act as CCN at 0.5 % supersaturation was investigated. The ΔCCN / ΔCN80 ratio was lowest during the fresh BB plume (56 ± 8 %), higher during the particle growth period (77 ± 4 %) and higher still (104 ± 3 %) in background marine air. Particle size distributions indicate that changes to particle chemical composition, rather than particle size, are driving these changes. Hourly average CCN during both BB events were between 2000 and 5000 CCN cm-3, which were enhanced above typical background levels by a factor of 6–34, highlighting the dramatic impact BB plumes can have on CCN number in clean marine regions.

During the 29 h of the second plume strike event (BB2) CO, BC and a range of NMOCs including acetonitrile and hydrogen cyanide (HCN) were clearly enhanced and some enhancements in O3 were observed (ΔO3 / ΔCO 0.001–0.074). A short-lived increase in NMOCs by a factor of 10 corresponded with a large CO enhancement, an increase of the NMOC / CO emission ratio (ER) by a factor of 2–4 and a halving of the BC / CO ratio. Rainfall on Robbins Island was observed by radar during this period which likely resulted in a lower fire combustion efficiency, and higher emission of compounds associated with smouldering. This highlights the importance of relatively minor meteorological events on BB emission ratios.

Emission factors (EFs) were derived for a range of trace gases, some never before reported for Australian fires, (including hydrogen, phenol and toluene) using the carbon mass balance method. This provides a unique set of EFs for Australian coastal heathland fires. Methyl halide EFs were higher than EFs reported from other studies in Australia and the Northern Hemisphere which is likely due to high halogen content in vegetation on Robbins Island.

This work demonstrates the substantial impact that BB plumes can have on the composition of marine air, and the significant changes that can occur as the plume interacts with terrestrial, aged urban and marine emission sources.

Short summary
Biomass burning (BB) plumes were opportunistically measured at the Cape Grim Baseline Station in Tasmania, Australia. We provide a unique set of trace gas and particle emission factors for temperate Australian coastal heathland fires, and attribute a major short-lived enhancement in emission ratios to a minor rainfall event. The ability of BB particles to act as cloud condensation nuclei, and the contribution of BB emissions to observed particle growth and ozone enhancements are discussed.
Final-revised paper