Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot Gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Heat Flux Assumptions Contribute To Overestimation of Wildfire Smoke Injection Into The Free Troposphere


Injections of wildfire smoke plumes into the free troposphere impact air quality, yet model forecasts of injections are poor. Here, we use aircraft observations obtained during the 2019 western US wildfires (FIREX-AQ) to evaluate a commonly used smoke plume rise parameterization in two atmospheric chemistry-transport models (WRF-Chem and HRRR-Smoke). Observations show that smoke injections into the free troposphere occur in 35% of plumes, whereas the models forecast 59–95% indicating false injections in the simulations. False injections were associated with both models overestimating fire heat flux and terrain height, and with WRF-Chem underestimating planetary boundary layer height. We estimate that the radiant fraction of heat flux is 0.5 to 25 times larger in models than in observations, depending on fuel type. Model performance was substantially improved by using observed heat flux and boundary layer heights, confirming that models need accurate heat fluxes and boundary layer heights to correctly forecast plume injections.

Article / Publication Data
Available Metadata
Fiscal Year
Publication Name
Nature > Communications Earth and Environment
Published On
October 10, 2022
Publisher Name


Authors who have authored or contributed to this publication.