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All Rights Reserved. Modeling Study of the Air Quality Impact of...

Shi, H., Z. Jiang, B. Zhao, Z. Li, Y. Chen, Y. Gu, J. Jiang, M. Lee, K. Liou, J. L. Neu, V. Payne, H. Su, Y. Wang, M. Witek, and J. Worden (2019), All Rights Reserved. Modeling Study of the Air Quality Impact of Record‐Breaking Southern California Wildfires in December 2017, J. Geophys. Res., 124, 6554-6570, doi:10.1029/2019JD030472.

We investigate the air quality impact of record‐breaking wildfires in Southern California during 5–18 December 2017 using the Weather Research and Forecasting model with Chemistry in combination with satellite and surface observations. This wildfire event was driven by dry and strong offshore Santa Ana winds, which played a critical role in fire formation and air pollutant transport. By utilizing fire emissions derived from the high‐resolution (375 × 375 m2) Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite active fire detections, the simulated magnitude and temporal evolution of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations agree reasonably well with surface observations (normalized mean bias = 4.0%). Meanwhile, the model could generally capture the spatial pattern of aerosol optical depth from satellite observations. Sensitivity tests reveal that using a high spatial resolution for fire emissions and a reasonable treatment of plume rise (a fair split between emissions injected at surface and those lifted to upper levels) is important for achieving decent PM2.5 simulation results. Biases in PM2.5 simulation are relatively large (about 50%) during the period with the strongest Santa Ana wind, due to a possible underestimation of burning area and uncertainty in wind field variation. The 2017 December fire event increases the 14‐day averaged PM2.5 concentrations by up to 231.2 μg/m3 over the downwind regions, which substantially exceeds the U.S. air quality standards, potentially leading to adverse health impacts. The human exposure to fire‐induced PM2.5 accounts for 14–42% of the annual total PM2.5 exposure in areas impacted by the fire plumes.

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Atmospheric Composition