The smoke episode in Buenos Aires, 15–20 April 2008



[1] The smoke that affected the city of Buenos Aires and its suburbs (approximate population, 13M) in mid April 2008 was an extreme event without historical precedent. The episode resulted in an increase of health problems among the population (respiratory problems, eye irritation) and, due to poor visibility, led to hazardous driving conditions and accidents that forced the intermittent closure of major highways. The origin of the smoke was traced to pasture burning in the La Plata River delta, to the northwest of Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, the increased shifting of livestock to the La Plata River delta may result in more common smoke episodes due to associated biomass burning practices. We clarify the mechanisms that resulted in this extreme episode, including the contribution of the La Plata River local circulations to the intensity of the event. We further show its high predictability using high resolution regional model simulations and forecasts. Our results suggest that a high resolution regional model could be used to monitor and predict several days in advance the atmospheric transport of smoke. These results could have policy implications, as preventive measures on biomass burning could be put in effect when smoke from the fires is predicted to affect a densely populated area.