Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2021-863
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2021-863

  03 Nov 2021

03 Nov 2021

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

Canadian and Alaskan wildfire smoke particle properties, their evolution, and controlling factors, from satellite observations

Katherine T. Junghenn Noyes1,2, Ralph A. Kahn3, James A. Limbacher3,4, and Zhanqing Li1,5 Katherine T. Junghenn Noyes et al.
  • 1Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA
  • 2Universities Space Research Association, NASA Postdoctoral Program, Columbia, MD 21046, USA
  • 3Earth Science Division, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
  • 4Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, the Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA 168026, USA
  • 5Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, College Park, MD 20740, USA

Abstract. The optical and chemical properties of biomass burning (BB) smoke particles greatly affect the impact wildfires have on climate and air quality. Previous work has demonstrated some links between smoke properties and factors such as fuel type and meteorology. However, the factors controlling BB particle speciation at emission are not adequately understood, nor are those driving particle aging during atmospheric transport. As such, modeling wildfire smoke impacts on climate and air quality remains challenging. The potential to provide robust, statistical characterizations of BB particles based on ecosystem type and ambient environmental conditions with remote sensing data is investigated here. Space-based Multi-angle Imaging Spectrometer (MISR) observations, combined with the MISR Research Aerosol (RA) algorithm and the MISR Interactive Explorer (MINX) tool, are used to retrieve smoke plume aerosol optical depth (AOD), and to provide constraints on plume vertical extent, smoke age, and particle size, shape, and light-absorption properties, and absorption spectral dependence. These tools are applied to numerous wildfire plumes in Canada and Alaska, across a range of conditions, to create a regional inventory of BB particle-type temporal and spatial distribution. We then statistically compare these results with satellite measurements of fire radiative power (FRP) and land cover characteristics, as well as short-term climate, meteorological, and drought information from MERRA-2 reanalysis and the North American Drought Monitor. We find statistically significant differences in the retrieved smoke properties based on land cover type, with fires in forests producing the thickest plumes containing the largest, brightest particles, and fires in savannas and grasslands exhibiting the opposite. Additionally, the inferred dominant aging mechanisms and the timescales over which they occur vary systematically between land types. This work demonstrates the potential of remote sensing to constrain BB particle properties and the mechanisms governing their evolution over entire ecosystems. It also begins to realize this potential, as a means of improving regional and global climate and air quality modeling in a rapidly changing world.

Katherine T. Junghenn Noyes et al.

Status: open (until 16 Dec 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2021-863', Anonymous Referee #1, 18 Nov 2021 reply

Katherine T. Junghenn Noyes et al.

Katherine T. Junghenn Noyes et al.

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Short summary
We compare retrievals on wildfire smoke particle size, shape, and light-absorption from the MISR satellite instrument to modeling and other satellite data on land cover type, drought conditions, meteorology, and estimates of fire intensity (fire radiative power, or FRP). We find statistically significant differences in the particle properties based on burning conditions and land cover type, and interpret how changes in these properties point to specific aerosol aging mechanisms.
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