WE-CAN Campaign Data Explores Chemical Evolution in Wildfire Plumes

  • 30 September 2021
WE-CAN Campaign Data Explores Chemical Evolution in Wildfire Plumes

Wildfires emit short-lived, nitrogen-containing gases (NOx) which can have a significant impact on the evolution of wildfire smoke by regulating the formation of secondary pollutants such as ozone and particulate matter. NOx reactions often take place too quickly and are too spatially dispersed to be well-represented in traditional chemical transport models. Enabled by the “near field” data from the Wildfire Experiment for Cloud chemistry, Aerosol absorption, and Nitrogen (WE-CAN) campaign, a team of researchers supported by CPO’s Atmospheric Chemistry, Carbon Cycle, & Climate (AC4) program investigated the fate of short-lived NOx in wildfire plumes, which can contribute to a host of air quality issues, to help advance chemical models. Published in the American Chemical Society journal Earth and Space Chemistry, the team used the WE-CAN data to set up a chemical model and evaluate the model’s ability to simulate chemical transformations happening within close and near-field smoke plumes. Their series of modeling experiments, constrained by WE-CAN observations, helps increase understanding of the factors determining chemical evolution in wildfire plumes, especially that of NOx. Ultimately their findings could lead to improvements in chemical models and the prediction of ozone production rates, oxidation capacity, and particulate matter evolution on regional and global scales. 

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Americans’ health, security and economic wellbeing are tied to climate and weather. Every day, we see communities grappling with environmental challenges due to unusual or extreme events related to climate and weather.