A NASA-funded study published in the July 26, 2006 Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres found that during April-May 2003, large amounts of smoke, which include aerosols -- tiny particles suspended in the air -- from biomass burning in the Yucatan Peninsula and southern Mexico reached Texas, Oklahoma, and other areas in the southeastern United States.
The smoke plumes degraded visibility and air quality in coastal regions along the Gulf of Mexico and resulted in the greatest concentration of small particulate matter in southern Texas since 1998. By blocking incoming sunlight, the smoke plumes also cooled surface air temperatures over land. But higher in the atmosphere the smoke absorbed solar radiation and warmed temperatures. This created a circulation pattern that trapped smoke aerosols in the lower atmosphere, worsening air quality.
The researchers used a newly developed computer model to simulate the transport and effects of smoke in the atmosphere and on the Earth's surface. The model couples aerosol properties with meteorology and uses hourly smoke emission data from the NASA-led Fire Locating and Monitoring of Burning Emissions (FLAMBE) project. FLAMBE is a joint effort by NASA, the U.S. Navy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and university partners to develop smoke aerosol forecasting models for the benefit for the global weather community.
"Although this computer model is not currently used in air-quality and weather forecasting, it is superior to other models for this purpose because it explicitly accounts for the diurnal variation of smoke emission from biomass burning fires and the radiative impacts of aerosols so that their impact on meteorology can be studied," said study co-author Sundar Christopher of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, Ala.
Comparisons with ground-based observations and imagery from NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra and Aqua Earth Observing System satellites showed that the model accurately simulated the impact of smoke on air temperature and the amount of sunlight absorbed and scattered through the atmosphere.
MODIS data was particularly useful in determining how aerosols from the Central American fires affected the amount of sunlight passing through the atmosphere, which can impact surface and atmospheric temperatures. "MODIS data allows us to capture the meteorological impacts of smoke and aerosols, especially important during the tropical dry season each spring when biomass burning peaks and pollutants are transported to the United States," said Christopher.
Smoke particles and aerosols scatter incoming sunlight while black carbon aerosols absorb solar radiation, affecting the atmospheric temperature profile. In turn, this alters evaporation and cloud formation. Smoke particles also often act as cloud condensation nuclei -- small particles on which water vapor condenses and forms clouds -- influencing the formation and distribution of rainfall. When combined with certain weather patterns, these aerosols can also have a significant impact on local and regional air quality according to the study.
This work demonstrated a new capability to improve air quality and climate forecasts, but researchers need to learn more about how smoke and aerosols impact clouds. "New satellite data, including that from the joint NASA and French Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation satellite, should help us better understand cloud microphysical processes and how aerosols impact cloud formation," said Christopher. Combining this information with improved computer models will help scientists better understand the role of smoke and aerosols on the climate to improve forecasts, even when the pollutant source is thousands of miles away.
Rob Gutro | EurekAlert!
The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences