We use the Weather Research and Forecasting with Chemistry (WRF-Chem) model with new implementations of GOES-16 wildfire emissions and plume rise based on fire radiative power (FRP) to interpret aerosol observations during the 2019 NASA-NOAA FIREX-AQ field campaign and perform model evaluations. We compare simulated aerosol concentrations and optical properties against observations of black carbon aerosol from the NOAA Single Particle Soot Photometer (NOAA-SP2), organic aerosol from the CU High-Resolution Aerosol Mass Spectrometer (HR-AMS), and aerosol backscatter coefficients from the high-spectral-resolution lidar (HSRL) system. This study focuses on the Williams Flats fire in Washington, which was repeatedly sampled during four science flights by the NASA DC-8 (3–8 August 2019). The emissions and plume-rise methodologies are implemented following NOAA's operational High-Resolution Rapid Refresh coupled with Smoke (HRRR-Smoke) forecasting model. In addition, new GOES-16 FRP-based diurnal cycle functions are developed and incorporated into WRF-Chem. The FIREX-AQ observations represented a diverse set of sampled environments ranging from fresh/aged smoke from the Williams Flats fire to remnants of plumes transported over long distances. The Williams Flats fire resulted in significant aerosol enhancements during 3–8 August 2019, which were substantially underestimated by the standard version of WRF-Chem. The simulated black carbon (BC) and organic carbon (OC) concentrations increased between a factor of 92–125 (BC) and a factor of 28–78 (OC) with the new implementation compared to the standard WRF-Chem version. These increases resulted in better agreement with the FIREX-AQ airborne observations for BC and OC concentrations (particularly for fresh smoke sampling phases) and aerosol backscatter coefficients. The model still showed a low bias in simulating the aerosol loadings observed in aged plumes from Williams Flats. WRF-Chem with the FRP-based plume rise simulated similar plume heights to the standard plume-rise model in WRF-Chem. The simulated plume heights (for both versions) compared well with estimated plume heights using the HSRL measurements. Therefore, the better agreement with observations was mainly driven by the higher emissions in the FRP-based version. The model evaluations also highlighted the importance of accurately accounting for the wildfire diurnal cycle and including adequate representation of the underlying chemical mechanisms, both of which could significantly impact model forecasting performance.
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