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Journal Article

Emissions relationships in western forest fire plumes - Part 1: Reducing the effect of mixing errors on emission factors


Andreae,  Meinrat O.
Multiphase Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Chatfield, R. B., Andreae, M. O., ARCTAS Science Team, & SEAC4RS Science Team (2020). Emissions relationships in western forest fire plumes - Part 1: Reducing the effect of mixing errors on emission factors. Atmospheric Measurement Techniques, 13(12), 7069-7096. doi:10.5194/amt-13-7069-2020.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-D3B6-D
Studies of emission factors from biomass burning using aircraft data complement the results of lab studies and extend them to conditions of immense hot conflagrations. A new theoretical development of plume theory for multiple tracers is developed after examining aircraft samples. We illustrate and discuss emissions relationships for 422 individual samples from many forest fire plumes in the Western USA. Samples are from two NASA investigations: ARCTAS (Arctic Research of the Composition of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites) and SEAC4RS (Studies of Emissions and Atmospheric Composition, Clouds and Climate Coupling by Regional Surveys). This work provides sample-by-sample enhancement ratios (EnRs) for 23 gases and particulate properties. Many EnRs provide candidates for emission ratios (ERs, corresponding to the EnR at the source) when the origin and degree of transformation is understood. From these, emission factors (EFs) can be estimated, provided the fuel dry mass consumed is known or can be estimated using the carbon mass budget approach. This analysis requires understanding the interplay of mixing of the plume with surrounding air. Some initial examples emphasize that measured Ctot=CO2+CO in a fire plume does not necessarily describe the emissions of the total carbon liberated in the flames, Cburn. Rather, it represents Ctot=Cburn+Cbkgd, which includes possibly varying background concentrations for entrained air. Consequently, we present a simple theoretical description for plume entrainment for multiple tracers from the flame tops to hundreds of kilometers downwind and illustrate some intrinsic linear behaviors. The analysis suggests a mixed-effects regression emission technique (MERET), which can eliminate occasional strong biases associated with the commonly used normalized excess mixing ratio (NEMR) method. MERET splits Ctot to reveal Cburn by exploiting the fact that Cburn and all tracers respond linearly to dilution, while each tracer has consistent EnR behavior (slope of tracer concentration with respect to Cburn). The two effects are separable. Two or three or preferably more emission indicators are required as a minimum; here we used eight. In summary, MERET allows a fine spatial resolution (EnRs for individual observations) and comparison of similar plumes that are distant in time and space. Alkene ratios provide us with an approximate photochemical timescale. This allows discrimination and definition, by fire situation, of ERs, allowing us to estimate emission factors.