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Volatile organic compounds composition of merged and aged forest fire plumes from Alaska and western Canada

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Abstract

[1] The NOAA WP-3 aircraft intercepted aged forest fire plumes from Alaska and western Canada during several flights of the NEAQS-ITCT 2k4 mission in 2004. Measurements of acetonitrile (CH3CN) indicated that the air masses had been influenced by biomass burning. The locations of the plume intercepts were well described using emissions estimates and calculations with the transport model FLEXPART. The best description of the data was generally obtained when FLEXPART injected the forest fire emissions to high altitudes in the model. The observed plumes were generally drier than the surrounding air masses at the same altitude, suggesting that the fire plumes had been processed by clouds and that moisture had been removed by precipitation. Different degrees of photochemical processing of the plumes were determined from the measurements of aromatic VOCs. The removal of aromatic VOCs was slow considering the transport times estimated from the FLEXPART model. This suggests that the average OH levels were low during the transport, which may be explained by the low humidity and high concentrations of carbon monoxide and other pollutants. In contrast with previous work, no strong secondary production of acetone, methanol and acetic acid is inferred from the measurements. A clear case of removal of submicron particle volume and acetic acid due to precipitation scavenging was observed.

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