Verification of the NOAA Smoke Forecasting System: Model Sensitivity to the Injection Height

Ariel F. Stein Earth Resources and Technology, Annapolis, Maryland

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Glenn D. Rolph National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Air Resources Laboratory, Silver Spring, Maryland

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Roland R. Draxler National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Air Resources Laboratory, Silver Spring, Maryland

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Barbara Stunder National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Air Resources Laboratory, Silver Spring, Maryland

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Mark Ruminski National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, Camp Springs Maryland

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Abstract

A detailed evaluation of NOAA’s Smoke Forecasting System (SFS) is a fundamental part of its development and further refinement. In this work, particulate matter with a diameter less than or equal to 2.5-μm (PM2.5) concentration levels, simulated by the SFS, have been evaluated against satellite and surface measurements. Four multiday forest fire case studies, one covering the continental United States, two in California, and one near the Georgia–Florida border, have been analyzed. The column-integrated PM2.5 concentrations for these cases compared to the satellite measurements showed a similar or better statistical performance than the mean performance of the SFS for the period covering 1 September 2006–1 November 2007. However, near the surface, the model shows a tendency to overpredict the measured PM2.5 concentrations in the western United States and underpredict concentrations for the Georgia–Florida case. Furthermore, a sensitivity analysis of the model response to changes in the smoke release height shows that the simulated surface and column-integrated PM2.5 concentrations are very sensitive to variations in this parameter. Indeed, the model capability to represent the measured values is highly dependent on the accuracy of the determination of the actual injection height and in particular to whether the smoke injection actually occurred below or above the planetary boundary layer.

* Current affiliation: NOAA/Air Resources Laboratory, Silver Spring, Maryland

Corresponding author address: Ariel F. Stein, NOAA/Air Resources Laboratory, R/ARL, 1315 East–West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Email: ariel.stein@noaa.gov

Abstract

A detailed evaluation of NOAA’s Smoke Forecasting System (SFS) is a fundamental part of its development and further refinement. In this work, particulate matter with a diameter less than or equal to 2.5-μm (PM2.5) concentration levels, simulated by the SFS, have been evaluated against satellite and surface measurements. Four multiday forest fire case studies, one covering the continental United States, two in California, and one near the Georgia–Florida border, have been analyzed. The column-integrated PM2.5 concentrations for these cases compared to the satellite measurements showed a similar or better statistical performance than the mean performance of the SFS for the period covering 1 September 2006–1 November 2007. However, near the surface, the model shows a tendency to overpredict the measured PM2.5 concentrations in the western United States and underpredict concentrations for the Georgia–Florida case. Furthermore, a sensitivity analysis of the model response to changes in the smoke release height shows that the simulated surface and column-integrated PM2.5 concentrations are very sensitive to variations in this parameter. Indeed, the model capability to represent the measured values is highly dependent on the accuracy of the determination of the actual injection height and in particular to whether the smoke injection actually occurred below or above the planetary boundary layer.

* Current affiliation: NOAA/Air Resources Laboratory, Silver Spring, Maryland

Corresponding author address: Ariel F. Stein, NOAA/Air Resources Laboratory, R/ARL, 1315 East–West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Email: ariel.stein@noaa.gov

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