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Taylor B. Aydell and Craig B. Clements


Remote sensing techniques have been used to study and track wildfire smoke plume structure and evolution; however, knowledge gaps remain because of the limited availability of observational datasets aimed at understanding fine-scale fire–atmosphere interactions and plume microphysics. Meteorological radars have been used to investigate the evolution of plume rise in time and space, but highly resolved plume observations are limited. In this study, we present a new mobile millimeter-wave (Ka band) Doppler radar system acquired to sample the fine-scale kinematics and microphysical properties of active wildfire smoke plumes from both wildfires and large prescribed fires. Four field deployments were conducted in autumn of 2019 during two wildfires in California and one prescribed burn in Utah. Radar parameters investigated in this study include reflectivity, radial velocity, Doppler spectrum width, differential reflectivity Z DR, and copolarized correlation coefficient ρ HV. Observed radar reflectivity ranged between −15 and 20 dBZ in plume, and radial velocity ranged from 0 to 16 m s−1. Dual-polarimetric observations revealed that scattering sources within wildfire plumes are primarily nonspherical and oblate-shaped targets as indicated by Z DR values measuring above 0 and ρ HV values below 0.8 within the plume. Doppler spectrum width maxima were located near the updraft core region and were associated with radar reflectivity maxima.

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