Science Inventory

Influence of uncertainties in burned area estimates on modeled wildland fire PM2.5 and ozone pollution in the contiguous U.S.

Citation:

Koplitz, S., Chris Nolte, G. Pouliot, J. Vukovich, AND J. Beidler. Influence of uncertainties in burned area estimates on modeled wildland fire PM2.5 and ozone pollution in the contiguous U.S. ATMOSPHERIC ENVIRONMENT. Elsevier Science Ltd, New York, NY, 191:328-339, (2018). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atmosenv.2018.08.020

Impact/Purpose:

Highlights • Estimated burned area varies widely in the southern US where small fires are common. • Mean simulated smoke PM2.5 varies by a factor of seven across inventories. • Modeled smoke plume rise is sensitive to the spatial allocation of burned area. • Wildland fire smoke affects most of the US, even areas with low local fire activity.

Description:

Wildland fires are a major source of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), one of the most harmful ambient pollutants for human health globally. To represent the influence of wildland fire emissions on atmospheric composition, regional and global chemical transport models rely on emission inventories developed from estimates of burned area (i.e. fire size and location). While different methods of estimating annual burned area agree reasonably well in the western U.S. (within 20–30% for most years during 2002–2014), estimates for the southern U.S. can vary by more than a factor of five. These differences in burned area lead to significant variability in the spatial and temporal allocation of emissions across fire emission inventory platforms. In this work, we implement wildland fire emission estimates for 2011 from three different products - the USEPA National Emission Inventory (NEI), the Fire Inventory of NCAR (FINN), and the Global Fire Emission Database (GFED4s) - into the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model to quantify and characterize differences in simulated PM and ozone concentrations across the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) due to the fire emission inventory used. The NEI is developed specifically for the U.S., while both FINN and GFED4s are available globally. We find that NEI emissions lead to the largest increases in modeled annual average PM2.5 (0.85 μg m−3) and April–September maximum daily 8-h ozone (0.28 ppb) nationally compared to a “no fire” baseline, followed by FINN (0.33 μg m−3 and 0.22 ppb) and GFED4s (0.12 μg m−3 and 0.17 ppb). Annual mean enhancements in wildland fire pollution are highest in the southern U.S. across all three inventories (over 4 μg m−3 and 2 ppb in some areas), but show considerable spatial variability within these regions. We also examine the representation of five individual fire events during 2011 and find that of the two global inventories, FINN reproduces more of the acute changes in pollutant concentrations modeled with NEI and shown in surface observations during each of the episodes investigated compared to GFED4s. Understanding the sensitivity of modeling fire-related PM2.5 and ozone in the U.S. to burned area estimation approaches will inform future efforts to assess the implications of present and future fire activity for air quality and human health at national and global scales.

URLs/Downloads:

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atmosenv.2018.08.020   Exit

Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (JOURNAL/PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL)
Product Published Date: 10/01/2018
Record Last Revised: 11/14/2018
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 343169

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL EXPOSURE RESEARCH LABORATORY

SYSTEMS EXPOSURE DIVISION