Impact of Biomass Burning Organic Aerosol Volatility on Smoke Concentrations Downwind of Fires

Demetrios Pagonis, Vanessa Selimovic, Pedro Campuzano-Jost, Hongyu Guo, Douglas A. Day, Melinda K. Schueneman, Benjamin A. Nault, Matthew M. Coggon, Joshua P. DiGangi, Glenn S. Diskin, Edward C. Fortner, Emily M. Gargulinski, Georgios I. Gkatzelis, Johnathan W. Hair, Scott C. Herndon, Christopher D. Holmes, Joseph M. Katich, John B. Nowak, Anne E. Perring, Pablo SaideTaylor J. Shingler, Amber J. Soja, Laura H. Thapa, Carsten Warneke, Elizabeth B. Wiggins, Armin Wisthaler, Tara I. Yacovitch, Robert J. Yokelson, Jose L. Jimenez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biomass burning particulate matter (BBPM) affects regional air quality and global climate, with impacts expected to continue to grow over the coming years. We show that studies of North American fires have a systematic altitude dependence in measured BBPM normalized excess mixing ratio (NEMR; ΔPM/ΔCO), with airborne and high-altitude studies showing a factor of 2 higher NEMR than ground-based measurements. We report direct airborne measurements of BBPM volatility that partially explain the difference in the BBPM NEMR observed across platforms. We find that when heated to 40-45 °C in an airborne thermal denuder, 19% of lofted smoke PM1 evaporates. Thermal denuder measurements are consistent with evaporation observed when a single smoke plume was sampled across a range of temperatures as the plume descended from 4 to 2 km altitude. We also demonstrate that chemical aging of smoke and differences in PM emission factors can not fully explain the platform-dependent differences. When the measured PM volatility is applied to output from the High Resolution Rapid Refresh Smoke regional model, we predict a lower PM NEMR at the surface compared to the lofted smoke measured by aircraft. These results emphasize the significant role that gas-particle partitioning plays in determining the air quality impacts of wildfire smoke.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17011-17021
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number44
StatePublished - Nov 7 2023


  • Biomass burning organic aerosol volatility
  • volatility basis set


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