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Investigating impacts of forest fires in Alaska and western Canada on regional weather over the northeastern United States using CAM5 global simulations to constrain transport to a WRF-Chem regional domain

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An aerosol-enabled globally driven regional modeling system has been developed by coupling the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Community Atmosphere Model version 5 (CAM5) with the Weather Research and Forecasting model with chemistry (WRF-Chem). In this modeling system, aerosol-enabled CAM5, a state-of-the-art global climate model is downscaled to provide coherent meteorological and chemical boundary conditions for regional WRF-Chem simulations. Aerosol particle emissions originating outside the WRF-Chem domain can be a potentially important nonlocal aerosol source. As a test case, the potential impacts of nonlocal forest fire aerosols on regional precipitation and radiation were investigated over the northeastern United States during the summer of 2004. During this period, forest fires in Alaska and western Canada lofted aerosol particles into the midtroposphere, which were advected across the United States. WRF-Chem simulations that included nonlocal biomass burning aerosols had domain-mean aerosol optical depths that were nearly three times higher than those without, which reduced peak downwelling domain-mean shortwave radiation at the surface by ~25 W m-2. In this classic twin experiment design, adding nonlocal fire plume led to near-surface cooling and changes in cloud vertical distribution, while variations in domain-mean cloud liquid water path were negligible. The higher aerosol concentrations in the simulation with the fire plume resulted in a ~10%reduction in domain-mean precipitation coincident with an ~8%decrease in domain-mean CAPE. A suite of simulations was also conducted to explore sensitivities of meteorological feedbacks to the ratio of black carbon to total plume aerosols, as well as to overall plume concentrations. Results from this ensemble revealed that plume-induced near-surface cooling and CAPE reduction occur in a wide range of conditions. The response of moist convection was very complex because of strong thermodynamic internal variability.

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