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  1. Abstract

    Wildfire emissions affect downwind air quality and human health. Predictions of these impacts using models are limited by uncertainties in emissions and chemical evolution of smoke plumes. Using high‐time‐resolution aircraft measurements, we illustrate spatial variations that can exist within a plume due to differences in the photochemical environment. Horizontal and vertical crosswind gradients of dilution‐corrected mixing ratios were observed in midday plumes for reactive compounds and their oxidation products, such as nitrous acid, catechol, and ozone, likely due to faster photochemistry in optically thinner plume edges relative to darker plume cores. Gradients in plumes emitted close to sunset are characterized by titration of O3in the plume and reduced or no gradient formation. We show how crosswind gradients can lead to underestimated emission ratios for reactive compounds and overestimated emission ratios for oxidation products. These observations will lead to improved predictions of wildfire emissions, evolution, and impacts across daytime and nighttime.

  2. Abstract

    Small cumulus clouds over the western United States were measured via airborne instruments during the wildfire season in summer of 2018. Statistics of the sampled clouds are presented and compared to smoke aerosol properties. Cloud droplet concentrations were enhanced in regions impacted by biomass burning smoke, at times exceeding 3,000 cm−3. Images and elemental composition of individual smoke particles and cloud droplet residuals are presented and show that most are dominantly organic, internally mixed with some inorganic elements. Despite their high organic content and relatively low hygroscopicity, on average about half of smoke aerosol particles >80 nm diameter formed cloud droplets. This reduced cloud droplet size in small, smoke‐impacted clouds. A number of complex and competing climatic impacts may result from wide‐spread reductions in cloud droplet size due to wildfires prevalent across the region during summer months.

  3. Abstract

    Cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) are mediators of aerosol‐cloud interactions, which contribute to the largest uncertainty in climate change prediction. Here, we present a machine learning (ML)/artificial intelligence (AI) model that quantifies CCN from model‐simulated aerosol composition, atmospheric trace gas, and meteorological variables. Comprehensive multi‐campaign airborne measurements, covering varied physicochemical regimes in the troposphere, confirm the validity of and help probe the inner workings of this ML model: revealing for the first time that different ranges of atmospheric aerosol composition and mass correspond to distinct aerosol number size distributions. ML extracts this information, important for accurate quantification of CCN, additionally from both chemistry and meteorology. This can provide a physicochemically explainable, computationally efficient, robust ML pathway in global climate models that only resolve aerosol composition; potentially mitigating the uncertainty of effective radiative forcing due to aerosol‐cloud interactions (ERFaci) and improving confidence in assessment of anthropogenic contributions and climate change projections.

  4. Abstract

    Wildfires in the western United States are large sources of particulate matter, and the area burned by wildfires is predicted to increase in the future. Some particles released from wildfires can affect cloud formation by serving as ice‐nucleating particles (INPs). INPs have numerous impacts on cloud radiative properties and precipitation development. Wildfires are potentially important sources of INPs, as indicated from previous measurements, but their abundance in the free troposphere has not been quantified. The Western Wildfire Experiment for Cloud Chemistry, Aerosol Absorption, and Nitrogen campaign sampled free tropospheric immersion‐freezing INPs from smoke plumes near their source and downwind, along with widespread aged smoke. The results indicate an enhancement of INPs in smoke plumes relative to out‐of‐plume background air, but the magnitude of enhancement was both temperature and fire dependent. The majority of INPs were inferred to be predominately organic in composition with some contribution from biological sources at modest super cooling, and contributions from minerals at deeper super cooling. A fire involving primarily sagebrush shrub land and aspen forest fuels had the highest INP concentrations measured in the campaign, which is partially attributed to the INP characteristics of lofted, uncombusted plant material. Electron microscopy analysis of INPs alsomore »indicated tar balls present in this fire. Parameterization of the plume INP data on a per‐unit‐aerosol surface area basis confirmed that smoke is not an efficient source of INPs. Nevertheless, the high numbers of particles released from, and ubiquity of western US wildfires in summertime, regionally elevate INP concentrations in the free troposphere.

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  5. 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, providingmore »additional evidence of the presence of NH4NO3and the influence of injection height on gas‐particle partitioning of NH3.

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  6. 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 leadmore »to an increase in NOxabundances by a factor of four and contribute to additional PAN formation.

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  7. Abstract

    Reactive nitrogen (Nr) within smoke plumes plays important roles in the production of ozone, the formation of secondary aerosols, and deposition of fixed N to ecosystems. The Western Wildfire Experiment for Cloud Chemistry, Aerosol Absorption, and Nitrogen (WE‐CAN) field campaign sampled smoke from 23 wildfires throughout the western U.S. during summer 2018 using the NSF/NCAR C‐130 research aircraft. We empirically estimateNrnormalized excess mixing ratios and emission factors from fires sampled within 80 min of estimated emission and explore variability in the dominant forms ofNrbetween these fires. We find that reduced N compounds comprise a majority (39%–80%; median = 66%) of total measured reactive nitrogen (ΣNr) emissions. The smoke plumes sampled during WE‐CAN feature rapid chemical transformations after emission. As a result, within minutes after emission total measured oxidized nitrogen (ΣNOy) and measured totalΣNHx(NH3 + pNH4) are more robustly correlated with modified combustion efficiency (MCE) than NOxand NH3by themselves. The ratio of ΣNHx/ΣNOydisplays a negative relationship with MCE, consistent with previous studies. A positive relationship with total measuredΣNrsuggests that both burn conditions and fuel N content/volatilization differences contribute to the observed variability in the distribution of reduced and oxidizedNr. Additionally, we compare our in situ field estimates ofNrEFs to previous lab and field studies. Formore »similar fuel types, we findΣNHxEFs are of the same magnitude or larger than lab‐based NH3EF estimates, andΣNOyEFs are smaller than lab NOxEFs.

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