14 Apr 2022
14 Apr 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Reconciling the total carbon budget for boreal forest wildfire emissions using airborne observations

Katherine Hayden1, Shao-Meng Li2, John Liggio1, Michael Wheeler1, Jeremy Wentzell1, Amy Leithead1, Peter Brickell1, Richard Mittermeier1, Zachary Oldham1,6, Cris Mihele1, Ralf Staebler1, Samar Moussa1, Andrea Darlington1, Alexandra Steffen1, Mengistu Wolde3, Daniel Thompson4, Jack Chen1, Debora Griffin1, Ellen Eckert1, Jenna Ditto5, Megan He5, and Drew Gentner5 Katherine Hayden et al.
  • 1Air Quality Research Division, Environment Canada, Toronto, ON, Canada
  • 2College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Peking University, Beijing, China
  • 3National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa, ON, Canada
  • 4Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada, Edmonton, AB, Canada
  • 5Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
  • 6University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada

Abstract. Wildfire impacts on air quality and climate are expected to be exacerbated by climate change with the most pronounced impacts in the boreal biome. Despite the large geographic coverage, there is a lack of information on boreal forest wildfire emissions, particularly for organic compounds, which are critical inputs for air quality model predictions of downwind impacts. In this study, airborne measurements of 250 compounds from 15 instruments, including 228 non-methane organics compounds (NMOG), were used to provide the most detailed characterization, to date, of boreal forest wildfire emissions. Highly speciated measurements showed a large diversity of chemical classes highlighting the complexity of emissions. Using measurements of the total NMOG carbon (NMOGT), the ΣNMOG was found to be 46.2 % of NMOGT, of which, the intermediate- and semi-volatile organic compounds (I/SVOCs) were estimated to account for 7.4 %. These estimates of I/SVOC emission factors expand the volatility range of NMOG typically reported. Despite extensive speciation, a substantial portion of NMOGT remained unidentified (46.4 %), with expected contributions from more highly-functionalized VOCs and I/SVOCs. The emission factors derived in this study improve wildfire chemical speciation profiles and are especially relevant for air quality modelling of boreal forest wildfires. These aircraft-derived emission estimates were further linked with those derived from satellite observations demonstrating their combined value in assessing variability in modelled emissions. These results contribute to the verification and improvement of models that are essential for reliable predictions of near-source and downwind pollution resulting from boreal forest wildfires.

Katherine Hayden et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2022-245', Anonymous Referee #1, 11 May 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on acp-2022-245', Anonymous Referee #2, 18 May 2022

Katherine Hayden et al.

Katherine Hayden et al.


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Short summary
In this study, airborne measurements provided the most detailed characterization, to date, of boreal forest wildfire emissions. Measurements showed a large diversity of air pollutants expanding the volatility range typically reported. A large portion of organic species was unidentified, likely comprised of complex organic compounds. Aircraft-derived emissions improve wildfire chemical speciation and can support reliable model predictions of pollution from boreal forest wildfires.