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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2019-5
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2019-5
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 22 Jan 2019

Submitted as: research article | 22 Jan 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Devastating Californian wildfires in November 2018 observed from space: the carbon monoxide perspective

Oliver Schneising, Michael Buchwitz, Maximilian Reuter, Heinrich Bovensmann, and John P. Burrows Oliver Schneising et al.
  • Institute of Environmental Physics (IUP), University of Bremen FB1, Bremen, Germany

Abstract. Due to proceeding climate change, some regions such as California are becoming warmer and drier entailing the risk that destructive wildfires and associated air pollution episodes continue to increase. November 2018 has turned into one of the most disastrous months in Californian history with two particularly destructive wildfires raging concurrently through the North and the South of the state leaving about 1000 km2 of land burnt to cinders. Both fires ignited at the wildland-urban interface causing at least 88 civilian fatalities and forcing the total evacuation of several cities and communities.

Here we demonstrate that the inherent carbon monoxide CO emissions of the wildfires and subsequent transport can be observed from space by analysing radiance measurements of the TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) onboard the Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite in the shortwave infrared spectral range. From the determined CO distribution we assess the corresponding air quality burden in Californian major cities caused by the fires. As a result of the prevailing wind conditions, the largest CO load during the first days of the fires is found in Sacramento and San Francisco with city area averages exceeding boundary layer concentrations of 6 mg m−3 and 4 mg m−3, respectively. For some neighbourhoods in the northwest of Sacramento national ambient air quality standards (10 mg m−3 with 8-hour averaging time) are likely exceeded.

Oliver Schneising et al.
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Oliver Schneising et al.
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Short summary
As a consequence of climate change, droughts in California are occurring more often providing ample fuel for destructive wildfires. The associated smoke is reducing air quality as it contains pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment such as carbon monoxide (CO). We analyse the statewide distribution of CO during the first days of two specific wildfires using satellite measurements and assess the corresponding air quality burden in Californian major cities.
As a consequence of climate change, droughts in California are occurring more often providing...
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