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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 12 Oct 2018

Research article | 12 Oct 2018

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Satellite-derived emissions of carbon monoxide, ammonia, and nitrogen dioxide from the 2016 Horse River wildfire in the Fort McMurray area

Cristen Adams1, Chris A. McLinden2, Mark W. Shephard2, Nolan Dickson2, Enrico Dammers2, Jack Chen2, Paul Makar2, Karen E. Cady-Pereira3, Naomi Tam1, Shailesh K. Kharol2, Lok N. Lamsal4,5, and Nickolay A. Krotkov5 Cristen Adams et al.
  • 1Environmental Monitoring and Science Division, Government of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • 2Air Quality Research Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Downsview, Ontario, Canada
  • 3Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Lexington, MA, USA
  • 4Goddard Earth Sciences Technology and Research, Universities Space Research Association, Columbia, MD, USA
  • 5Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamic Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA

Abstract. In May 2016, the Horse River wildfire led to the evacuation of ~88,000 people from Fort McMurray and surrounding areas and consumed ~590,000ha of land in Northern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Within the plume, satellite instruments measured elevated values of CO, NH3 and NO2: CO was measured by two Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometers (IASI-A and IASI-B), NH3 by IASI-A, IASI-B and the Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS), and NO2 by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI). Daily emissions rates were calculated from the satellite measurements using fire hotspot information from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and wind information from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) ERA5 reanalysis, combined with assumptions on lifetimes and the altitude range of the plume. The satellite-derived emissions rates were ~50–300kt/d for CO, ~1–7kt/d for NH3, ~0.5–2kt/d for NOx (expressed as NO) during the most active fire periods. The daily satellite-derived emissions estimates were found to correlate fairly well (R~0.4–0.7) with daily output from the ECMWF Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS) and the Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) FireWork models, with agreement within a factor of two for most comparisons. Emission ratios of NH3/CO, NOx/CO, and NOx/NH3 were calculated and compared against enhancement ratios of surface concentrations measured at permanent surface air monitoring stations and by the Alberta Environment and Parks Mobile Air Monitoring Laboratory (MAML). For NH3/CO, the satellite emission ratios of ~0.02 are within a factor of two of the model emission ratios and surface enhancement ratios. For NOx/CO satellite-measured emission ratios of ~0.01 are lower than the modelled emission ratios of 0.033 for GFAS and 0.014 for FireWork, but are larger than the surface enhancement ratios of ~0.03, which may have been affected by the short lifetime of NOx. Total emissions from the Horse River fire for May 2016 were calculated and compared against total annual anthropogenic emissions for the province of Alberta in 2015 from the ECCC Air Pollutant Emissions Inventory (APEI). Satellite-measured emissions of CO are ~1500kt for the Horse River fire and exceed the total annual Alberta anthropogenic CO emissions of 1037kt for 2015. The satellite-measured emissions during the Horse River fire of ~30kt of NH3 and ~7kt of NOx (expressed as NO), are approximately 20% and 1% of the magnitude of total annual Alberta anthropogenic emissions, respectively.

Cristen Adams et al.
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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Cristen Adams et al.
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Short summary
We estimated how much carbon monoxide, ammonia, and nitrogen oxides were emitted in the smoke from the Fort McMurray Horse River wildfire using satellite data and air quality models. The fire emitted amounts of carbon monoxide that were similar to anthropogenic (human-caused) emissions for all of Alberta over a full year. We also estimated large amounts of ammonia and nitrogen oxides emitted from the fire. These results are useful to check performance of air quality forecasting models.
We estimated how much carbon monoxide, ammonia, and nitrogen oxides were emitted in the smoke...