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Satellite Remote Sensing and Mesoscale Modeling of the 2007 Georgia/Florida Fires

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8 Author(s)
Christopher, S.A. ; Dept. of Atmos. Sci., Univ. of Alabama, Huntsville, AL, USA ; Gupta, P. ; Nair, U. ; Jones, T.A.
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During April and May 2007, several hundred fires burned uncontrollably in Georgia and Florida. The smoke from these fire events were visible throughout the Southeastern United States and had a major impact on particulate matter (PM) air quality near the surface. In this study, we show the strength of polar orbiting and geostationary satellite data in capturing the spatial distribution and diurnal variability of columnar smoke aerosol optical depth from these fires. We quantitatively evaluate PM air quality from satellites and ground-based monitors, near and far away (> 300 km) from fire source regions. We also show the changes in organic carbon concentrations (a tracer for smoke aerosols) before, during and after these fire events. Finally, we use fire locations and emissions retrieved and estimated from satellite observations as input to a regional mesoscale transport model to forecast the spatial distribution of aerosols and their impact on PM air quality. During the fire events, near the source regions, total column 550 nm aerosol optical thickness (AOT) exceeded 1.0 on several days and ground-based PM2.5 mass (particles less than 2.5 mum in aerodynamic diameter) reached unhealthy levels ( > 65.5 mug m-3). Since the aerosols were reasonably well mixed in the first 1-2 km (as estimated from meteorology), the column AOT values derived from both geostationary and polar orbiting satellites and the surface PM2.5 were well correlated (linear correlation coefficient, r > 0.7). Several hundred miles away from the fire sources, in Birmingham, AL, the impact of the fires were also seen through the high AOT's and PM2.5 values. Correspondingly, PM2.5 mass due to organic carbon obtained from ground-based monitors showed a three fold increase during fire events when compared to background values. Satellite data were especially useful in capturing PM2.5 air quality in areas where there were no ground-based monitors. Although the mesoscale transport model- captured the timing and location of aerosols, when compared to observations, the simulated mass concentrations are underestimated by nearly 70% due to various reasons including uncertainties in fire emission estimates, lack of chemistry in the model, and assumptions on vertical distribution of aerosols. Satellite products such as AOT, fire locations, and emissions from space-borne sensors are becoming a vital tool for assessing extreme events such as fires, smoke, and particulate matter air quality.

Published in:

Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing, IEEE Journal of  (Volume:2 ,  Issue: 3 )

Date of Publication:

Sept. 2009

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