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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  08 Jul 2020

08 Jul 2020

Review status
A revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal ACP.

Air Quality Impact of the Northern California Camp Fire of November 2018

Brigitte Rooney1, Yuan Wang1,2, Jonathan H. Jiang2, Bin Zhao3, Zhao-Cheng Zeng4, and John H. Seinfeld5 Brigitte Rooney et al.
  • 1Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA
  • 2Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
  • 3Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, USA
  • 4Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering,University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • 5Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA

Abstract. The Northern California Camp Fire that took place in November 2018 was one of the most damaging environmental events in California history. Here, we analyze ground-based station observations of airborne particulate matter that has a diameter < 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) across northern California and conduct numerical simulations of the Camp Fire using the Weather Research and Forecasting model online coupled with Chemistry (WRF-Chem). Simulations are evaluated against ground-based observations of PM2.5, black carbon, and meteorology, as well as satellite measurements, such as Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) aerosol layer height and aerosol index. The Camp Fire led to an increase in Bay Area PM2.5 to over 70 µg m−3 for nearly two weeks, with localized peaks exceeding 300 µg m−3. Using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) high resolution fire detection products, the simulations reproduce the magnitude and evolution of surface PM2.5 concentrations, especially downwind of the wildfire. The overall spatial patterns of simulated aerosol plumes and their heights are comparable with the latest satellite products from TROPOMI. WRF-Chem sensitivity simulations are carried out to analyze uncertainties that arise from fire emissions, meteorological conditions, feedback of aerosol radiative effects on meteorology, and various physical parameterizations, including the planetary boundary layer model and the plume rise model. Downwind PM2.5 concentrations are sensitive to both flaming and smoldering emissions over the fire, so the uncertainty in the satellite derived fire emission products can directly affect the air pollution simulations downwind. Our analysis also shows the importance of land surface and boundary layer parameterization in the fire simulation, which can result in large variations in magnitude and trend of surface PM2.5. Inclusion of aerosol radiative feedback moderately improves PM2.5 simulations, especially over the most polluted days. Results of this study can assist in the development of data assimilation systems as well as air quality forecasting of health exposures and economic impact studies.

Brigitte Rooney et al.

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Brigitte Rooney et al.

Brigitte Rooney et al.


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Latest update: 30 Sep 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Wildfires have become increasingly prevalent. Intense smoke consisting of particulate matter (PM) leads to an increased risk of morbidity and mortality. The record-breaking Camp Fire ravaged northern California for two weeks in 2018. Here, we employ a comprehensive chemical transport model along with ground-based and satellite observations to characterize the PM concentrations across northern California and to investigate the pollution sensitivity predictions to key parameters of the model.
Wildfires have become increasingly prevalent. Intense smoke consisting of particulate matter...