Analysis of aerosol composition data for western United States wildfires between 2005 and 2015: Dust emissions, chloride depletion, and most enhanced aerosol constituents

Joseph S. Schlosser, Rachel A. Braun, Trevor Bradley, Hossein Dadashazar, Alexander B. MacDonald, Abdulmonam A. Aldhaif, Mojtaba Azadi Aghdam, Ali Hossein Mardi, Peng Xian, Armin Sorooshian

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This study examines major wildfires in the western United States between 2005 and 2015 to determine which species exhibit the highest percent change in mass concentration on day of peak fire influence relative to preceding nonfire days. Forty-one fires were examined using the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) data set. Organic carbon (OC) and elemental carbon (EC) constituents exhibited the highest percent change increase. The sharpest enhancements were for the volatile (OC1) and semivolatile (OC2) OC fractions, suggestive of secondary organic aerosol formation during plume transport. Of the noncarbonaceous constituents, Cl, P, K, NO3 , and Zn levels exhibited the highest percent change. Dust was significantly enhanced in wildfire plumes, based on significant enhancements in fine soil components (i.e., Si, Ca, Al, Fe, and Ti) and PMcoarse (i.e., PM10–PM2.5). A case study emphasized how transport of wildfire plumes significantly impacted downwind states, with higher levels of fine soil and PMcoarse at the downwind state (Arizona) as compared to the source of the fires (California). A global model (Navy Aerosol Analysis and Prediction System, NAAPS) did not capture the dust influence over California or Arizona during this case event because it is not designed to resolve dust dynamics in fires, which motivates improved treatment of such processes. Significant chloride depletion was observed on the peak EC day for almost a half of the fires examined. Size-resolved measurements during two specific fires at a coastal California site revealed significant chloride reductions for particle aerodynamic diameters between 1 and 10 μm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8951-8966
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 27 2017



  • biomass burning
  • chloride depletion
  • dust
  • organic aerosol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Forestry
  • Ecology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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