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Assessing Forest Canopy Impacts on Smoke Concentrations Using a Coupled Numerical Model

Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, 3101 Technology Blvd., Suite F, Lansing, MI 48910, USA
Michigan State University, Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences, Geography Building, 673 Auditorium Rd., Room 116, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, 11 Campus Blvd., Suite 200, Newtown Square, PA 19073, USA
Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, 501 Four Mile Road, New Lisbon, NJ 08064, USA
Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, 180 Canfield Street, Morgantown, WV 26505, USA
Southern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, 320 Green Street, Athens, GA 30602, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Atmosphere 2019, 10(5), 273;
Received: 12 April 2019 / Revised: 6 May 2019 / Accepted: 10 May 2019 / Published: 14 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Air Quality and Smoke Management)
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The impact of a forest canopy on smoke concentration is assessed by applying a numerical weather prediction model coupled with a Lagrangian particle dispersion model to two low-intensity wildland (prescribed) fires in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. A comparison with observations indicates that the coupled numerical model can reproduce some of the observed variations in surface smoke concentrations and plume heights. Model sensitivity analyses highlight the effect of the forest canopy on simulated meteorological conditions, smoke concentrations, and plume heights. The forest canopy decreases near-surface wind speed, increases buoyancy, and increases turbulent mixing. Sensitivities to the time of day, plant area density profiles, and fire heat fluxes are documented. Analyses of temporal variations in smoke concentrations indicate that the effect of the transition from a daytime to a nocturnal planetary boundary layer is weaker when sensible heat fluxes from the fires are stronger. The results illustrate the challenges in simulating meteorological conditions and smoke concentrations at scales where interactions between the fire, fuels, and atmosphere are critically important. The study demonstrates the potential for predictive tools to be developed and implemented that could help fire and air-quality managers assess local air-quality impacts during low-intensity wildland fires in forested environments. View Full-Text
Keywords: smoke dispersion; numerical simulation; wildland fire smoke dispersion; numerical simulation; wildland fire

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Charney, J.J.; Kiefer, M.T.; Zhong, S.; Heilman, W.E.; Nikolic, J.; Bian, X.; Hom, J.L.; Clark, K.L.; Skowronski, N.S.; Gallagher, M.R.; Patterson, M.; Liu, Y.; Hawley, C. Assessing Forest Canopy Impacts on Smoke Concentrations Using a Coupled Numerical Model. Atmosphere 2019, 10, 273.

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