skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 11:00 PM ET on Thursday, June 13 until 2:00 AM ET on Friday, June 14 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Hills, Alan J."

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Deep convection in the Asian summer monsoon is a significant transport process for lifting pollutants from the planetary boundary layer to the tropopause level. This process enables efficient injection into the stratosphere of reactive species such as chlorinated very short-lived substances (Cl-VSLSs) that deplete ozone. Past studies of convective transport associated with the Asian summer monsoon have focused mostly on the south Asian summer monsoon. Airborne observations reported in this work identify the East Asian summer monsoon convection as an effective transport pathway that carried record-breaking levels of ozone-depleting Cl-VSLSs (mean organic chlorine from these VSLSs ~500 ppt) to the base of the stratosphere. These unique observations show total organic chlorine from VSLSs in the lower stratosphere over the Asian monsoon tropopause to be more than twice that previously reported over the tropical tropopause. Considering the recently observed increase in Cl-VSLS emissions and the ongoing strengthening of the East Asian summer monsoon under global warming, our results highlight that a reevaluation of the contribution of Cl-VSLS injection via the Asian monsoon to the total stratospheric chlorine budget is warranted.

    more » « less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 19, 2025
  2. Wildfire smoke contains numerous different reactive organic gases, many of which have only recently been identified and quantified. Consequently, their relative importance as an oxidant sink is poorly constrained, resulting in incomplete representation in both global chemical transport models (CTMs) and explicit chemical mechanisms. Leveraging 160 gas-phase measurements made during the Western Wildfire Experiment for Cloud Chemistry, Aerosol Absorption, and Nitrogen (WE-CAN) aircraft campaign, we calculate OH reactivities (OHRs) for western U.S. wildfire emissions, smoke aged >3 days, smoke-impacted and low/no smoke-impacted urban atmospheres, and the clean free troposphere. VOCs were found to account for ∼80% of the total calculated OHR in wildfire emissions, with at least half of the field VOC OHR not currently implemented for biomass burning (BB) emissions in the commonly used GEOS-Chem CTM. To improve the representation of OHR, we recommend CTMs implement furan-containing species, butadienes, and monoterpenes for BB. The Master Chemical Mechanism (MCM) was found to account for 88% of VOC OHR in wildfire emissions and captures its observed decay in the first few hours of aging, indicating that most known VOC OH sinks are included in the explicit mechanisms. We find BB smoke enhanced the average total OHR by 53% relative to the low/no smoke urban background, mainly due to the increase in VOCs and CO thus promoting urban ozone production. This work highlights the most important VOC species for daytime BB plume oxidation and provides a roadmap for which species should be prioritized in next-generation CTMs to better predict the downwind air quality and health impacts of BB smoke. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Agricultural and prescribed burning activities emit large amounts of trace gases and aerosols on regional to global scales. We present a compilation of emission factors (EFs) and emission ratios from the eastern portion of the Fire Influence on Regional to Global Environments and Air Quality (FIREX‐AQ) campaign in 2019 in the United States, which sampled burning of crop residues and other prescribed fire fuels. FIREX‐AQ provided comprehensive chemical characterization of 53 crop residue and 22 prescribed fires. Crop residues burned at different modified combustion efficiencies (MCE), with corn residue burning at higher MCE than other fuel types. Prescribed fires burned at lower MCE (<0.90) which is typical, while grasslands burned at lower MCE (0.90) than normally observed due to moist, green, growing season fuels. Most non‐methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) were significantly anticorrelated with MCE except for ethanol and NMVOCs that were measured with less certainty. We identified 23 species where crop residue fires differed by more than 50% from prescribed fires at the same MCE. Crop residue EFs were greater for species related to agricultural chemical use and fuel composition as well as oxygenated NMVOCs possibly due to the presence of metals such as potassium. Prescribed EFs were greater for monoterpenes (5×). FIREX‐AQ crop residue average EFs generally agreed with the previous agricultural fire study in the US but had large disagreements with global compilations. FIREX‐AQ observations show the importance of regionally‐specific and fuel‐specific EFs as first steps to reduce uncertainty in modeling the air quality impacts of fire emissions.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    We present emission measurements of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for western U.S. wildland fires made on the NSF/NCAR C‐130 research aircraft during the Western Wildfire Experiment for Cloud Chemistry, Aerosol Absorption, and Nitrogen (WE‐CAN) field campaign in summer 2018. VOCs were measured with complementary instruments onboard the C‐130, including a proton‐transfer‐reaction time‐of‐flight mass spectrometer (PTR‐ToF‐MS) and two gas chromatography (GC)‐based methods. Agreement within combined instrument uncertainties (<60%) was observed for most co‐measured VOCs. GC‐based measurements speciated the isomeric contributions to selected PTR‐ToF‐MS ion masses and generally showed little fire‐to‐fire variation. We report emission ratios (ERs) and emission factors (EFs) for 161 VOCs measured in 31 near‐fire smoke plume transects of 24 specific individual fires sampled in the afternoon when burning conditions are typically most active. Modified combustion efficiency (MCE) ranged from 0.85 to 0.94. The measured campaign‐average total VOC EF was 26.1 ± 6.9 g kg−1, approximately 67% of which is accounted for by oxygenated VOCs. The 10 most abundantly emitted species contributed more than half of the total measured VOC mass. We found that MCE alone explained nearly 70% of the observed variance for total measured VOC emissions (r2 = 0.67) and >50% for 57 individual VOC EFs representing more than half the organic carbon mass. Finally, we found little fire‐to‐fire variability for the mass fraction contributions of individual species to the total measured VOC emissions, suggesting that a single speciation profile can describe VOC emissions for the wildfires in coniferous ecosystems sampled during WE‐CAN.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    A new configuration of the Community Earth System Model (CESM)/Community Atmosphere Model with full chemistry (CAM‐chem) supporting the capability of horizontal mesh refinement through the use of the spectral element (SE) dynamical core is developed and called CESM/CAM‐chem‐SE. Horizontal mesh refinement in CESM/CAM‐chem‐SE is unique and novel in that pollutants such as ozone are accurately represented at human exposure relevant scales while also directly including global feedbacks. CESM/CAM‐chem‐SE with mesh refinement down to ∼14 km over the conterminous US (CONUS) is the beginning of the Multi‐Scale Infrastructure for Chemistry and Aerosols (MUSICAv0). Here, MUSICAv0 is evaluated and used to better understand how horizontal resolution and chemical complexity impact ozone and ozone precursors over CONUS as compared to measurements from five aircraft campaigns, which occurred in 2013. This field campaign analysis demonstrates the importance of using finer horizontal resolution to accurately simulate ozone precursors such as nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. In general, the impact of using more complex chemistry on ozone and other oxidation products is more pronounced when using finer horizontal resolution where a larger number of chemical regimes are resolved. Large model biases for ozone near the surface remain in the Southeast US as compared to the aircraft observations even with updated chemistry and finer horizontal resolution. This suggests a need for adding the capability of replacing sections of global emission inventories with regional inventories, increasing the vertical resolution in the planetary boundary layer, and reducing model biases in meteorological variables such as temperature and clouds.

    more » « less
  6. Abstract

    Wildfires are a major source of gas‐phase ammonia (NH3) to the atmosphere. Quantifying the evolution and fate of this NH3is important to understanding the formation of secondary aerosol in smoke and its accompanying effects on radiative balance and nitrogen deposition. Here, we use data from the Western Wildfire Experiment for Cloud Chemistry, Aerosol Absorption, and Nitrogen (WE‐CAN) to add new empirical constraints on the e‐folding loss timescale of NH3and its relationship with particulate ammonium (pNH4) within wildfire smoke plumes in the western U.S. during summer 2018. We show that the e‐folding loss timescale of NH3with respect to particle‐phase partitioning ranges from ∼24 to ∼4000 min (median of 55 min). Within these same plumes, oxidation of nitrogen oxides is observed concurrent with increases in the fraction ofpNH4in each plume sampled, suggesting that formation of ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) is likely. We find wide variability in how close ourin situmeasurements of NH4NO3are to those expected in a dry thermodynamic equilibrium, and find that NH4NO3is most likely to form in fresh, dense smoke plumes injected at higher altitudes and colder temperatures. In chemically older smoke we observe correlations between both the fraction ofpNH4and the fraction of particulate nitrate (pNO3) in the aerosol with temperature, providing additional evidence of the presence of NH4NO3and the influence of injection height on gas‐particle partitioning of NH3.

    more » « less
  7. Abstract

    The Western Wildfire Experiment for Cloud Chemistry, Aerosol Absorption, and Nitrogen (WE‐CAN) deployed the NSF/NCAR C‐130 aircraft in summer 2018 across the western U.S. to sample wildfire smoke during its first days of atmospheric evolution. We present a summary of a subset of reactive oxidized nitrogen species (NOy) in plumes sampled in a pseudo‐Lagrangian fashion. Emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx = NO + NO2) and nitrous acid (HONO) are rapidly converted to more oxidized forms. Within 4 h, ∼86% of the ΣNOyis in the form of peroxy acyl nitrates (PANs) (∼37%), particulate nitrate (pNO3) (∼27%), and gas‐phase organic nitrates (Org N(g)) (∼23%). The averagee‐folding time and distance for NOxare ∼90 min and ∼40 km, respectively. Nearly no enhancements in nitric acid (HNO3) were observed in plumes sampled in a pseudo‐Lagrangian fashion, implying HNO3‐limited ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) formation, with one notable exception that we highlight as a case study. We also summarize the observed partitioning of NOyin all the smoke samples intercepted during WE‐CAN. In smoke samples intercepted above 3 km above sea level (ASL), the contributions of PANs andpNO3to ΣNOyincrease with altitude. WE‐CAN also sampled smoke from multiple fires mixed with anthropogenic emissions over the California Central Valley. We distinguish samples where anthropogenic NOxemissions appear to lead to an increase in NOxabundances by a factor of four and contribute to additional PAN formation.

    more » « less