Airborne and ground-based measurements of the trace gases and particles emitted by prescribed fires in the United States

I. R. Burling, R. J. Yokelson, S. K. Akagi, S. P. Urbanski, C. E. Wold, D. W.T. Griffith, T. J. Johnson, J. Reardon, D. R. Weise

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132 Scopus citations


We have measured emission factors for 19 trace gas species and particulate matter (PM2.5) from 14 prescribed fires in chaparral and oak savanna in the southwestern US, as well as conifer forest understory in the southeastern US and Sierra Nevada mountains of California. These are likely the most extensive emission factor field measurements for temperate biomass burning to date and the only published emission factors for temperate oak savanna fuels. This study helps to close the gap in emissions data available for temperate zone fires relative to tropical biomass burning. We present the first field measurements of the biomass burning emissions of glycolaldehyde, a possible precursor for aqueous phase secondary organic aerosol formation. We also measured the emissions of phenol, another aqueous phase secondary organic aerosol precursor. Our data confirm previous observations that urban deposition can impact the NOx emission factors and thus subsequent plume chemistry. For two fires, we measured both the emissions in the convective smoke plume from our airborne platform and the unlofted residual smoldering combustion emissions with our ground-based platform. The smoke from residual smoldering combustion was characterized by emission factors for hydrocarbon and oxygenated organic species that were up to ten times higher than in the lofted plume, including high 1,3-butadiene and isoprene concentrations which were not observed in the lofted plume. This should be considered in modeling the air quality impacts for smoke that disperses at ground level. We also show that the often ignored unlofted emissions can significantly impact estimates of total emissions. Preliminary evidence suggests large emissions of monoterpenes in the residual smoldering smoke. These data should lead to an improved capacity to model the impacts of biomass burning in similar temperate ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12197-12216
Number of pages20
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number23
StatePublished - 2011


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