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Title: Ground-level air pollution changes during a boreal wildland mega-fire

Author: Bytnerowicz, Andrzej; Hsu, Yu-Mei; Percy, Kevin; Legge, Allan; Fenn, Mark E.; Schilling, Susan; Frączek, Witold; Alexander, Diane;

Date: 2016

Source: Science of The Total Environment. 572: 755-769

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: The 2011 Richardson wildland mega-fire in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR) in northern Alberta, Canada had large effects on air quality. At a receptor site in the center of the AOSR ambient PM2.5, O3, NO, NO2, SO2, NH3, HONO, HNO3, NH4+ and NO3- were measured during the April–August 2011 period. Concentrations of NH3, HNO3, NO2, SO2 and O3 were also monitored across the AOSR with passive samplers, providing monthly summer and bi-monthly winter average values in 2010, 2011 and 2012. During the fire, hourly PM2.5 concentrations, >450 μg m-3 were measured at the AMS 1 receptor site. The 24-hr National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) of 35 μg m-3 and the Canada Wide Standard (CWS) of 30 μg m-3 were exceeded on 13 days in May and 7 days in June. During the fire emission periods, sharp increases in NH3, HONO, HNO3, NH4+, NO3- and total inorganic reactive N concentrations occurred, all closely correlated with the PM2.5 changes. There were large differences in the relative contribution of various N compounds to total inorganic N between the no-fire emission and fire emission periods. While in the absence of fires NO and NO2 dominated, their relative contribution during the fires was ~2 fold smaller, mainly due to increased NH3, NH4+ and NO3-. Concentrations of HONO and HNO3 also greatly increased during the fires, but their contribution to the total inorganic N pool was relatively small. Elevated NH3 and HNO3 concentrations affected large areas of northern Alberta during the Richardson Fire. While NH3 and HNO3 concentrations were not at levels considered toxic to plants, these gases contributed significantly to atmospheric N deposition. No significant changes in O3 and SO2 concentrations were detected and their ambient concentrations were below levels harmful to human health or sensitive vegetation.

Keywords: Fine particulate matter, Reactive nitrogenous species, Sulfur dioxide, Sulfate, Ozone

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Bytnerowicz, Andrzej; Hsu, Yu-Mei; Percy, Kevin; Legge, Allan; Fenn, Mark E.; Schilling, Susan; Frączek, Witold; Alexander, Diane 2016. Ground-level air pollution changes during a boreal wildland mega-fire. Science of The Total Environment. 572: 755-769.


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