17 Nov 2020

17 Nov 2020

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Organic pollutants from tropical peatland fires: regional influences and its impact on lower stratospheric ozone

Simon Rosanka1, Bruno Franco2, Lieven Clarisse2, Pierre-François Coheur2, Andreas Wahner1, and Domenico Taraborrelli1 Simon Rosanka et al.
  • 1Institute of Energy and Climate Research, IEK-8: Troposphere, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Jülich, Germany
  • 2Spectroscopy, Quantum Chemistry and Atmospheric Remote Sensing (SQUARES), Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Brussels 1050, Belgium

Abstract. The particularly strong dry season in Indonesia in 2015, caused by an exceptional strong El Niño, led to severe peatland fires resulting in high volatile organic compound (VOC) biomass burning emissions. At the same time, the developing Asian monsoon anticyclone (ASMA) and the general upward transport in the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) efficiently transported the resulting primary and secondary pollutants to the upper troposphere/lower stratosphere (UTLS). In this study, we assess the importance of these VOC emissions for the composition of the lower troposphere and the UTLS, and we investigate the effect of in-cloud oxygenated VOC (OVOC) oxidation during such a strong pollution event. This is achieved by performing multiple chemistry simulations using the global atmospheric model ECHAM/MESSy (EMAC). By comparing modelled columns of the biomass burning marker hydrogen cyanide (HCN) to spaceborne measurements from the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer (IASI), we find that EMAC properly captures the exceptional strength of the Indonesian fires.

In the lower troposphere, the increase in VOC levels is higher in Indonesia compared to other biomass burning regions. This has a direct impact on the oxidation capacity, resulting in the largest regional reduction in hydroxyl radicals (OH) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Even though an increase in ozone (O3) is predicted close to the peatland fires, particular high concentrations of phenols lead to an O3 depletion in eastern Indonesia. By employing the detailed in-cloud OVOC oxidation scheme Jülich Aqueous-phase Mechanism of Organic Chemistry (JAMOC), we find that the predicted changes are dampened and that by ignoring these processes, global models tend to overestimate the impact of such extreme pollution events.

In the ASMA and the ITCZ, the upward transport leads to elevated VOC concentrations in the UTLS region, which results in a depletion of lower stratospheric O3. We find that this is caused by a high destruction of O3 by phenoxy radicals and by the increased formation of NOx reservoir species, which dampen the chemical production of O3. The Indonesian peatland fires regularly occur during El Niño years and contribute to the depletion of O3. In the time period from 2001 to 2016, we find that the lower stratospheric O3 is reduced by about 0.38 DU and contributes to about 25 % to the lower stratospheric O3 reduction observed by remote sensing. By not considering these processes, global models might not be able to reproduce this variability in lower stratospheric O3.

Simon Rosanka et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
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Simon Rosanka et al.

Simon Rosanka et al.


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Short summary
The strong El Niño in 2015 led to a particular dry season in Indonesia and favoured severe peatland fires. The smouldering conditions of these fires and the high carbon content of peat resulted in high volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. By using a comprehensive atmospheric model, we show that these emissions have a significant impact on the tropospheric composition and oxidation capacity. These emissions are transported into to the lower stratosphere, resulting in a depletion of ozone.