Synoptic Atmospheric Transport of Wildfire Smoke Plume to Greenland

Authors: Lavoue David, DL Modeling and Research, Milton, Ontario, Canada

Track: General


Forest fire smoke contains numerous gaseous and particulate components including black carbon particles. Black carbon particles are thought to be the second largest cause of global warming. When they are deposited onto the Greenland ice sheet, they cause icy and snowy surfaces to absorb more solar radiation, and therefore enhance the melt. Wildfire smoke plumes reaching Greenland may greatly contribute to the melting of its ice sheet. Satellite imagery offers a unique view on forest fire smoke affecting the Arctic region. For over 30 years, remote sensing instruments have recorded the atmospheric transport of forest fire smoke plumes to the far north and more specifically to Greenland. Measurements from these instruments permit calculating geographical areas covered by smoke on a daily basis. Additionally, the actual heights of the detected plumes can be derived from the calculation of air mass trajectories. More recently developed space-based instruments provide high-resolution vertical profiles of the plumes approaching and impacting Greenland. Inter-annual variability of smoke emissions, transport and area depend on numerous geophysical factors such as synoptic scale weather patterns. A library of Python tools was developed to extract, analyse and visualise remote sensing and weather datasets related to smoke transport. Statistical functions were applied to calculate long-term trends of smoke areas over the fire regions and Greenland, and also to quantify statistical relationships between smoke and large-scale climate indices, including the North Atlantic Oscillation, Arctic Oscillation and El Niño-Southern Oscillation indices. The netCDF4-python module was utilized to retrieve meteorological datasets from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's meteorological model archive. Matplotlib and Basemap were used for plotting and animating wind vectors, atmospheric pressure levels and smoke plumes on a map of Earth.