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Impacts of Estimated Plume Rise On Pm2.5 Exceedance Prediction During Extreme Wildfire Events: A Comparison of Three Schemes (briggs, Freitas, and Sofiev)


Plume height plays a vital role in wildfire smoke dispersion and the subsequent effects on air quality and human health. In this study, we assess the impact of different plume rise schemes on predicting the dispersion of wildfire air pollution, and the exceedances of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) during the 2020 Western United States Wildfire season. Three widely used plume rise schemes (Briggs 1969, Freitas 2007, Sofiev 2012) are compared within the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) modelling framework. The plume heights simulated by these schemes are comparable to the aerosol height observed by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR). The performance of the simulations with these schemes varies by fire case and weather conditions. On average, simulations with higher plume injection heights predict lower AOD and surface PM2.5 concentrations near the source region but higher AOD and PM2.5 in downwind regions due to the faster spread of the smoke plume once ejected. The two-month mean AOD difference caused by different plume rise schemes is approximately 20–30 % near the source regions and 5–10 % in the downwind regions. Thick smoke blocks sunlight and suppresses photochemical reactions in areas with high AOD. The surface PM2.5 difference reaches 70 % on the west coast and the difference is lower than 15 % in the downwind regions. Moreover, the plume injection height affects pollution exceedance (>35 μg/m3) forecasts. Higher plume heights generally produce larger downwind PM2.5 exceedance areas. The PM2.5 exceedance areas predicted by the three schemes largely overlap, suggesting that all schemes perform similarly during large wildfire events when the predicted concentrations are well above the exceedance threshold. At the edges of the smoke plumes, however, there are noticeable differences in the PM2.5 concentration and predicted PM2.5 exceedance region. This disagreement among the PM2.5 exceedance forecasts may affect key decision-making regarding early warning of extreme air pollution episodes at local levels during large wildfire events.

Article / Publication Data
Available Metadata
Early Online Release
August 16, 2022
Fiscal Year
Peer Reviewed
Publication Name
The Egu Interactive Community Platform
Publisher Name
European Geosciences Union
Submitted On
July 29, 2022


Authors who have authored or contributed to this publication.