Science Questions

The following list of specific science questions can be addressed using a combination of the large-scale aircraft campaign and the smaller-scale field and laboratory experiments.

  1. What are the emissions of gases and aerosols from North American fires?
    • How do emissions depend on meteorology, fuel, time of day or night, and fire conditions?
    • How do the relative and absolute amounts of smoldering and flaming impact smoke composition and injection altitude?
    • What is the amount, composition, and volatility of aerosol precursors including the previously unidentified fraction of the emissions including SVOCs, IVOCs, and BC, BrC and OC aerosols?
    • What are the emissions of greenhouse gases and air toxics?
    • How well do inventories represent BB emissions and their radiative properties, and what are the largest uncertainties affecting the inventories?
  2. What chemical transformations affect those emissions?
    • What are the formation mechanisms for secondary species (ozone and secondary aerosol) and what environmental or chemical conditions control their relative importance?
    • How do aerosol optical and CCN properties evolve in fire plumes due to secondary production, particle phase transitions, and brown carbon bleaching and production?
    • How large are the variations in fire emissions compared to the changes from chemical processing?
    • What fraction of the organic aerosol is primary versus secondary at various time scales?
    • How do nighttime chemical transformations involving NO3, N2O5 and O3 influence the composition and evolution and the production of secondary organic aerosol in smoke plumes?
    • What are the mechanisms that lead to PAN formation in fire plumes during daytime and nighttime?
    • What is the diurnal cycle of free radical and oxidant production in fire plumes, and how important are reactions with different oxidants at various times of day
    • How important is the formation of organic aerosol from aqueous-phase processes?
  3. What is the local air quality impact of North American fires?
    • How well do local models predict the BB impact on air toxics including gases and aerosols, and visibility?
    • How does local meteorology impact fire evolution?
    • How large are the small-scale temporal and spatial gradients in fire plumes?
    • How important is nighttime smoke for populated areas and what are the health impacts?
    • How large are the regional impacts of small prescribed fires?
    • How much do small prescribed fires lead to population exposure?
  4. What are the regional and long-term impacts of North American fires?
    • How strongly are the composition and distribution of pollutants over North America influenced by BB?
    • How far afield can BB emissions from prescribed fires impact air quality?
    • What are the likely future changes in BB impacts that could result from climate change and changes to fire management practices?
  5. What are the climate-relevant properties of BB aerosols?
    • What roles do brown carbon and black carbon, other light-absorbing species, and internal mixtures play in the climate-relevant properties of smoke?
    • What intensive properties of BB aerosols can remote (i.e. satellite and AERONET) observations determine globally?
    • How well do regional and global models predict the BB influence on climate?
    • How can measurements improve remote retrievals of smoke?