Articles | Volume 8, issue 3
Development and technical paper
12 Mar 2015
Development and technical paper |  | 12 Mar 2015

Characterising Brazilian biomass burning emissions using WRF-Chem with MOSAIC sectional aerosol

S. Archer-Nicholls, D. Lowe, E. Darbyshire, W. T. Morgan, M. M. Bela, G. Pereira, J. Trembath, J. W. Kaiser, K. M. Longo, S. R. Freitas, H. Coe, and G. McFiggans

Abstract. The South American Biomass Burning Analysis (SAMBBA) field campaign took detailed in situ flight measurements of aerosol during the 2012 dry season to characterise biomass burning aerosol and improve understanding of its impacts on weather and climate. Developments have been made to the Weather Research and Forecast model with chemistry (WRF-Chem) model to improve the representation of biomass burning aerosol in the region, by coupling a sectional aerosol scheme to the plume-rise parameterisation. Brazilian Biomass Burning Emissions Model (3BEM) fire emissions are used, prepared using PREP-CHEM-SRC, and mapped to CBM-Z and MOSAIC species. Model results have been evaluated against remote sensing products, AERONET sites, and four case studies of flight measurements from the SAMBBA campaign.

WRF-Chem predicted layers of elevated aerosol loadings (5–20 μg sm−3) of particulate organic matter at high altitude (6–8 km) over tropical forest regions, while flight measurements showed a sharp decrease above 2–4 km altitude. This difference was attributed to the plume-rise parameterisation overestimating injection height. The 3BEM emissions product was modified using estimates of active fire size and burned area for the 2012 fire season, which reduced the fire size. The enhancement factor for fire emissions was increased from 1.3 to 5 to retain reasonable aerosol optical depths (AODs). The smaller fire size lowered the injection height of the emissions, but WRF-Chem still showed elevated aerosol loadings between 4–5 km altitude. Over eastern cerrado (savannah-like) regions, both modelled and measured aerosol loadings decreased above approximately 4 km altitude.

Compared with MODIS satellite data and AERONET sites, WRF-Chem represented AOD magnitude well (between 0.3–1.5) over western tropical forest fire regions in the first half of the campaign, but tended to over-predict them in the second half, when precipitation was more significant. Over eastern cerrado regions, WRF-Chem tended to under-predict AODs. Modelled aerosol loadings in the east were higher in the modified emission scenario. The primary organic matter to black carbon ratio was typically between 8–10 in WRF-Chem. This was lower than the western flight measurements (interquartile range of 11.6–15.7 in B734, 14.7–24.0 in B739), but similar to the eastern flight B742 (8.1–10.4). However, single scattering albedo was close to measured over the western flights (0.87–0.89 in model; 0.86–0.91 in flight B734, and 0.81–0.95 in flight B739 measurements) but too high over the eastern flight B742 (0.86–0.87 in model, 0.79–0.82 in measurements). This suggests that improvements are needed to both modelled aerosol composition and optical properties calculations in WRF-Chem.

Short summary
The regional WRF-Chem model was used to study aerosol particles from biomass burning in South America. The modelled estimates of fire plume injection heights were found to be too high, with serious implications for modelled aerosol vertical distribution, transport and impacts on local climate. A modified emission scenario was developed which improved the predicted injection height. Model results were compared and evaluated against in situ measurements from the 2012 SAMBBA flight campaign.