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Open AccessArticle

Reconstructing Fire Records from Ground-Based Routine Aerosol Monitoring

Key Laboratory of Wetland Ecology and Environment, Northeast Institute of Geography and Agroecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Changchun 130102, China
U.S. NOAA Air Resources Laboratory, College Park, MD 20740, USA
UMD/Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, College Park, MD 20740, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Rebecca Sheesley
Atmosphere 2016, 7(3), 43;
Received: 30 October 2015 / Revised: 10 March 2016 / Accepted: 10 March 2016 / Published: 14 March 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Air Quality and Source Apportionment)
Long-term fire records are important to understanding the trend of biomass burning and its interactions with air quality and climate at regional and global scales. Traditionally, such data have been compiled from ground surveys or satellite remote sensing. To obtain aerosol information during a fire event to use in analyzing air quality, we propose a new method of developing a long-term fire record for the contiguous United States using an unconventional data source: ground-based aerosol monitoring. Assisted by satellite fire detection, the mass concentration, size distribution, and chemical composition data of surface aerosols collected from the Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) network are examined to identify distinct aerosol characteristics during satellite-detected fire and non-fire periods. During a fire episode, elevated aerosol concentrations and heavy smoke are usually recorded by ground monitors and satellite sensors. Based on the unique physical and chemical characteristics of fire-dominated aerosols reported in the literature, we analyzed the surface aerosol observations from the IMPROVE network during satellite-detected fire events to establish a set of indicators to identify fire events from routine aerosol monitoring data. Five fire identification criteria were chosen: (1) high concentrations of PM2.5 and PM10 (particles smaller than 2.5 and 10 in diameters, respectively); (2) a high PM2.5/PM10 ratio; (3) high organic carbon (OC/PM2.5) and elemental carbon (EC/PM2.5) ratios; (4) a high potassium (K/PM2.5) ratio; and (5) a low soil/PM2.5 ratio. Using these criteria, we are able to identify a number of fire episodes close to 15 IMPROVE monitors from 2001 to 2011. Most of these monitors are located in the Western and Central United States. In any given year within the study period fire events often occurred between April and September, especially in the two months of April and September. This ground-based fire climatology is also consistent with that derived from satellite retrievals. This study demonstrates that it is feasible to reconstruct historic records of fire events based on continuous ground aerosol monitoring. This dataset can provide not only fire activity information but also fire-induced aerosol surface concentrations and chemical composition that can be used to verify satellite-based products and evaluate air quality and climate modeling results. However, caution needs to be exercised because these indicators are based on a limited number of fire events, and the proposed methodology should be further tested and confirmed in future research. View Full-Text
Keywords: fire; aerosol; ground-based aerosol monitoring; fire identification fire; aerosol; ground-based aerosol monitoring; fire identification
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Zhao, H.; Tong, D.Q.; Lee, P.; Kim, H.; Lei, H. Reconstructing Fire Records from Ground-Based Routine Aerosol Monitoring. Atmosphere 2016, 7, 43.

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