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Title: Constraining emissions of volatile organic compounds from western US wildfires with WE-CAN and FIREX-AQ airborne observations
Abstract. The impact of biomass burning (BB) on the atmospheric burden of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is highly uncertain. Here we apply the GEOS-Chemchemical transport model (CTM) to constrain BB emissions in the western USA at ∼ 25 km resolution. Across three BB emission inventorieswidely used in CTMs, the inventory–inventory comparison suggests that the totals of 14 modeled BB VOC emissions in the western USA agree with eachother within 30 %–40 %. However, emissions for individual VOCs can differ by a factor of 1–5, driven by the regionally averaged emissionratios (ERs, reflecting both assigned ERs for specific biome and vegetation classifications) across the three inventories. We further evaluate GEOS-Chemsimulations with aircraft observations made during WE-CAN (Western Wildfire Experiment for Cloud Chemistry, Aerosol Absorption and Nitrogen) andFIREX-AQ (Fire Influence on Regional to Global Environments and Air Quality) field campaigns. Despite being driven by different global BBinventories or applying various injection height assumptions, the model–observation comparison suggests that GEOS-Chem simulations underpredictobserved vertical profiles by a factor of 3–7. The model shows small to no bias for most species in low-/no-smoke conditions. We thus attribute thenegative model biases mostly to underestimated BB emissions in these inventories. Tripling BB emissions in the model reproduces observed verticalprofiles for primary compounds, i.e., CO, propane, benzene, and toluene. However, it shows no to less significant improvements for oxygenatedVOCs, particularly for formaldehyde, formic acid, acetic acid, and lumped ≥ C3 aldehydes, suggesting the model is missing secondarysources of these compounds in BB-impacted environments. The underestimation of primary BB emissions in inventories is likely attributable tounderpredicted amounts of effective dry matter burned, rather than errors in fire detection, injection height, or ERs, as constrained by aircraftand ground measurements. We cannot rule out potential sub-grid uncertainties (i.e., not being able to fully resolve fire plumes) in the nestedGEOS-Chem which could explain the negative model bias partially, though back-of-the-envelope calculation and evaluation using longer-term groundmeasurements help support the argument of the dry matter burned underestimation. The total ERs of the 14 BB VOCs implemented in GEOS-Chem onlyaccount for half of the total 161 measured VOCs (∼ 75 versus 150 ppb ppm−1). This reveals a significant amount of missing reactiveorganic carbon in widely used BB emission inventories. Considering both uncertainties in effective dry matter burned (× 3) and unmodeledVOCs (× 2), we infer that BB contributed to 10 % in 2019 and 45 % in 2018 (240 and 2040 Gg C) of the total VOC primaryemission flux in the western USA during these two fire seasons, compared to only 1 %–10 % in the standard GEOS-Chem.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2144896 1929210 1650275 1748266 1950327
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Page Range / eLocation ID:
5969 to 5991
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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