Primary emissions of glyoxal and methylglyoxal from laboratory measurements of open biomass burning

Kyle J. Zarzana, Vanessa Selimovic, Abigail R. Koss, Kanako Sekimoto, Matthew M. Coggon, Bin Yuan, William P. Dubé, Robert J. Yokelson, Carsten Warneke, Joost A. De Gouw, James M. Roberts, Steven S. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


We report the emissions of glyoxal and methylglyoxal from the open burning of biomass during the NOAA-led 2016 FIREX intensive at the Fire Sciences Laboratory in Missoula, MT. Both compounds were measured using cavity-enhanced spectroscopy, which is both more sensitive and more selective than methods previously used to determine emissions of these two compounds. A total of 75 burns were conducted, using 33 different fuels in 8 different categories, providing a far more comprehensive dataset for emissions than was previously available. Measurements of methylglyoxal using our instrument suffer from spectral interferences from several other species, and the values reported here are likely underestimates, possibly by as much as 70 %. Methylglyoxal emissions were 2-3 times higher than glyoxal emissions on a molar basis, in contrast to previous studies that report methylglyoxal emissions lower than glyoxal emissions. Methylglyoxal emission ratios for all fuels averaged 3.6±2.4 ppbv methylglyoxal (ppmv CO) 1, while emission factors averaged 0.66±0.50 g methylglyoxal (kg fuel burned) 1. Primary emissions of glyoxal from biomass burning were much lower than previous laboratory measurements but consistent with recent measurements from aircraft. Glyoxal emission ratios for all fuels averaged 1.4±0.7 ppbv glyoxal (ppmv CO) 1, while emission factors averaged 0.20±0.12 g glyoxal (kg fuel burned) 1, values that are at least a factor of 4 lower than assumed in previous estimates of the global glyoxal budget. While there was significant variability in the glyoxal emission ratios and factors between the different fuel groups, glyoxal and formaldehyde were highly correlated during the course of any given fire, and the ratio of glyoxal to formaldehyde, RGF, was consistent across many different fuel types, with an average value of 0.068±0.018. While RGF values for fresh emissions were consistent across many fuel types, further work is required to determine how this value changes as the emissions age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15451-15470
Number of pages20
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 26 2018


FundersFunder number
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science18K05179


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