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Airborne measurements of western U.S. wildfire emissions: Comparison with prescribed burning and air quality implications

Liu, Xiaoxi and Crounse, John D. and St. Clair, Jason M. and Teng, Alexander P. and Wennberg, Paul O. (2017) Airborne measurements of western U.S. wildfire emissions: Comparison with prescribed burning and air quality implications. Journal of Geophysical Research. Atmospheres, 122 (11). pp. 6108-6129. ISSN 2169-897X. doi:10.1002/2016JD026315.

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Wildfires emit significant amounts of pollutants that degrade air quality. Plumes from three wildfires in the western U.S. were measured from aircraft during the Studies of Emissions and Atmospheric Composition, Clouds and Climate Coupling by Regional Surveys (SEAC^4RS) and the Biomass Burning Observation Project (BBOP), both in summer 2013. This study reports an extensive set of emission factors (EFs) for over 80 gases and 5 components of submicron particulate matter (PM_1) from these temperate wildfires. These include rarely, or never before, measured oxygenated volatile organic compounds and multifunctional organic nitrates. The observed EFs are compared with previous measurements of temperate wildfires, boreal forest fires, and temperate prescribed fires. The wildfires emitted high amounts of PM_1 (with organic aerosol (OA) dominating the mass) with an average EF that is more than 2 times the EFs for prescribed fires. The measured EFs were used to estimate the annual wildfire emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, total nonmethane organic compounds, and PM_1 from 11 western U.S. states. The estimated gas emissions are generally comparable with the 2011 National Emissions Inventory (NEI). However, our PM_1 emission estimate (1530 ± 570 Gg yr^(−1)) is over 3 times that of the NEI PM_(2.5) estimate and is also higher than the PM_(2.5) emitted from all other sources in these states in the NEI. This study indicates that the source of OA from biomass burning in the western states is significantly underestimated. In addition, our results indicate that prescribed burning may be an effective method to reduce fine particle emissions.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Liu, Xiaoxi0000-0002-5104-8886
Crounse, John D.0000-0001-5443-729X
St. Clair, Jason M.0000-0002-9367-5749
Teng, Alexander P.0000-0002-6434-0501
Wennberg, Paul O.0000-0002-6126-3854
Additional Information:© 2017 American Geophysical Union. Received 6 DEC 2016; Accepted 20 APR 2017; Published online 14 JUN 2017. This work was supported by NASA grants NNX12AB77G, NNX15AT90G, NNX12AC06G, and NNX14AP46G-ACCDAM. The BBOP project was funded by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program and the Atmospheric System Research (ASR) program. P.C.J., D.A.D., B.B.P., and J.L.J. were supported by NASA NNX12AC03G and NNX15AT96G. M. Müller received additional support by the Austrian Space Applications Programme (ASAP 8 and 9, grants 833451 and 840086). ASAP is sponsored by the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT) and administered by the Aeronautics and Space Agency (ALR) of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG). The authors would also like to thank the DC-8 and G-1 flight crews. Data from the BBOP and the SEAC4RS missions can be found at and (doi: 10.5067/Aircraft/SEAC4RS/Aerosol-TraceGas-Cloud), respectively. The data generated from this study are available from the authors upon request (
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Department of Energy (DOE)UNSPECIFIED
Austrian Space Applications Programme (ASAP)833451
Austrian Space Applications Programme (ASAP)840086
Bundesministerium für Verkehr, Innovation und Technologie (BMVIT)UNSPECIFIED
Österreichische Forschungsförderungsgesellschaft (FFG)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Wildfire emission; Air quality; Emission factor; Fine particulate matter
Issue or Number:11
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20170713-104419729
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Liu, X., et al. (2017), Airborne measurements of western U.S. wildfire emissions: Comparison with prescribed burning and air quality implications, J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 122, 6108–6129, doi:10.1002/2016JD026315
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:79079
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:13 Jul 2017 18:28
Last Modified:15 Nov 2021 17:45

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