Duff burning from wildfires in a moist region: different impacts on PM2.5 and ozone
Wildfires can significantly impact air quality and human health. However; little is known about how different fuel bed components contribute to these impacts. This study investigates the air quality impacts of duff and peat consumption during wildfires in the southeastern United States; with a focus on the differing contributions of fine particulate matter less than 2.5 µm in size (PM2.5) and ozone (O3) to air quality episodes associated with the four largest wildfire events in the region during this century. The emissions of duff burning were estimated based on a field measurement of a 2016 southern Appalachian fire. The emissions from the burning of other fuels were obtained from the Fire INventory from NCAR (FINN). The air quality impacts were simulated using a three-dimensional regional air quality model. The results show the duff burning emitted PM2.5 comparable to the burning of the above-ground fuels. The simulated surface PM2.5 concentrations due to duff burning increased by 61.3 % locally over a region approximately 300 km within the fire site and by 21.3% and 29.7 % in remote metro Atlanta and Charlotte during the 2016 southern Appalachian fires and by 131.9% locally and by 17.7 % and 24.8 % in remote metro Orlando and Miami during the 2007 Okefenokee Fire. However; the simulated ozone impacts from the duff burning were negligible due to the small duff emission factors of ozone precursors such as NOx . This study suggests the need to improve the modeling of PM2.5 and the air quality; human health; and climate impacts of wildfires in moist ecosystems by including duff burning in global fire emission inventories.