Articles | Volume 15, issue 13
Research article
01 Jul 2015
Research article |  | 01 Jul 2015

Fire emission heights in the climate system – Part 1: Global plume height patterns simulated by ECHAM6-HAM2

A. Veira, S. Kloster, S. Wilkenskjeld, and S. Remy

Abstract. We use the global circulation model ECHAM6 extended by the aerosol module HAM2 to simulate global patterns in wildfire emission heights. Prescribed plume heights in ECHAM6 are replaced by an implementation of a simple, semi-empirical plume height parametrization. In a first step, the global performance of the plume height parametrization is evaluated for plumes reported in the Multiangle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR) Plume Height Project (MPHP) data set. Our results show that the parametrization simulates a largely reasonable global distribution of plume heights. While the modeled global mean plume height (1411 ± 646 m) is in good agreement with the observed mean (1382 ± 702 m), the upper and lower tails of the plume height distribution tend to be slightly underrepresented. Furthermore, we compare plume heights simulated by the simple parametrization to a more complex, analytical plume model. Major differences in global plume height distributions are found for the lowest 1.5 km, but reasonable agreement is observed for higher plumes. In a second step, fire radiative power (FRP) as reported in the global fire assimilation system (GFAS) is used to simulate plume heights for observed fires globally for the period 2005–2011. The global fraction of simulated daytime plumes injecting emissions into the free troposphere (FT) ranges from 3.7 ± 0.7 to 5.2 ± 1.0 %. This range is comparable to results from observational studies, but it is much lower than results for prescribed plume heights in the ECHAM6-HAM2 standard setup. Nevertheless, occasionally deep emission injections exceeding 5–7 km in height are simulated for intense fires and favorable meteorological conditions. The application of a prescribed diurnal cycle in FRP turns out to be of minor importance. For a hypothetical doubling in FRP, moderate changes in plume heights of 100–400 m are simulated. These small changes indicate that a potential future increase in fire intensity will only slightly impact the emission heights on a global scale.

Short summary
We discuss the representation of wildfire emission heights in global climate models. Our implementation of a simple, semi-empirical plume height parametrization in the aerosol-climate model ECHAM6-HAM2 shows reasonable agreement with observations and with a more complex plume rise model. In contrast, prescribed emission heights, which do not consider the intensity of individual fires, fail to adequately simulate global plume height patterns. Diurnal and seasonal cycles are of minor importance.
Final-revised paper