Aerosol emissions from prescribed fires in the United States: A synthesis of laboratory and aircraft measurements

A. A. May, G. R. McMeeking, T. Lee, Jonathan Taylor, J. S. Craven, I. Burling, A. P. Sullivan, S. Akagi, J. L. Collett, M. Flynn, H. Coe, S. P. Urbanski, J. H. Seinfeld, R. J. Yokelson, S. M. Kreidenweis

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Aerosol emissions from prescribed fires can affect air quality on regional scales. Accurate representation of these emissions in models requires information regarding the amount and composition of the emitted species. We measured a suite of submicron particulate matter species in young plumes emitted from prescribed fires (chaparral and montane ecosystems in California; coastal plain ecosystem in South Carolina) and from open burning of over 15 individual plant species in the laboratory. We report emission ratios and emission factors for refractory black carbon (rBC) and submicron nonrefractory aerosol and compare field and laboratory measurements to assess the representativeness of our laboratory-measured emissions. Laboratory measurements of organic aerosol (OA) emission factors for some fires were an order of magnitude higher than those derived from any of our aircraft observations; these are likely due to higher-fuel moisture contents, lower modified combustion efficiencies, and less dilution compared to field studies. Nonrefractory inorganic aerosol emissions depended more strongly on fuel type and fuel composition than on combustion conditions. Laboratory and field measurements for rBC were in good agreement when differences in modified combustion efficiency were considered; however, rBC emission factors measured both from aircraft and in the laboratory during the present study using the Single Particle Soot Photometer were generally higher than values previously reported in the literature, which have been based largely on filter measurements. Although natural variability may account for some of these differences, an increase in the BC emission factors incorporated within emission inventories may be required, pending additional field measurements for a wider variety of fires.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)11826-11849
    Number of pages24
    JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
    Issue number20
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2014


    • biomass burning emissions
    • refractory black carbon
    • organic aerosol
    • prescribed fires
    • biomass-burning emissions
    • black carbon measurements
    • light-absorption measurements
    • laser-induced incandescence
    • fine-particle mass
    • trace gases
    • high-resolution
    • brown carbon
    • physical-properties


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