Biomass burning aerosol over the Amazon: analysis of aircraft, surface and satellite observations using a global aerosol model

Reddington, Carly L.; Morgan, William T.; Darbyshire, Eoghan; Brito, Joel; Coe, Hugh; Artaxo, Paulo; Scott, Catherine E.; Marsham, John; Spracklen, Dominick V.

Vegetation fires emit large quantities of aerosol into the atmosphere, impacting regional air quality and climate. Previous work has used comparisons of simulated and observed aerosol optical depth (AOD) in regions heavily impacted by fires to suggest that emissions of aerosol particles from fires may be underestimated by a factor of 2–5. Here we use surface, aircraft and satellite observations made over the Amazon during September 2012, along with a global aerosol model to improve understanding of aerosol emissions from vegetation fires. We apply three different satellite-derived fire emission datasets (FINN, GFED, GFAS) in the model. Daily mean aerosol emissions in these datasets vary by up to a factor of 3.7 over the Amazon during this period, highlighting the considerable uncertainty in emissions. We find variable agreement between the model and observed aerosol mass concentrations. The model reproduces observed aerosol concentrations over deforestation fires well in the western Amazon during dry season conditions with FINN or GFED emissions and during dry–wet transition season conditions with GFAS emissions. In contrast, the model underestimates aerosol concentrations over savanna fires in the Cerrado environment east of the Amazon Basin with all three fire emission datasets. The model generally underestimates AOD compared to satellite and ground stations, even when the model reproduces the observed vertical profile of aerosol mass concentration. We suggest it is likely caused by uncertainties in the calculation of AOD, which are as large as inline-formula∼90 %, with the largest sensitivities due to uncertainties in water uptake and relative humidity. Overall, we do not find evidence that particulate emissions from fires are systematically underestimated in the Amazon region and we caution against using comparison with AOD to constrain particulate emissions from fires.



Reddington, Carly L. / Morgan, William T. / Darbyshire, Eoghan / et al: Biomass burning aerosol over the Amazon: analysis of aircraft, surface and satellite observations using a global aerosol model. 2019. Copernicus Publications.


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