Theoretical Investigations on Mapping Mean Distributions of Particulate Matter, Inert, Reactive, and Secondary Pollutants from Wildfires by Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs)


Evaluated Weather Research and Forecasting model inline with chemistry (WRF/Chem) simulations of the 2009 Crazy Mountain Complex wildfire in Interior Alaska served as a testbed for typical Alaska wildfire-smoke conditions. A virtual unmanned air vehicle (UAV) sampled temperatures, dewpoint temperatures, primary inert and reactive gases and particular matter of different sizes as well as secondary pollutants from the WRF/Chem results using different sampling patterns, altitudes and speeds to investigate the impact of the sampling design on obtained mean distributions. In this experimental design, the WRF/Chem data served as the “grand truth” to assess the mean distributions from sampling. During frontal passage, the obtained mean distributions were sensitive to the flight patterns, speeds and heights. For inert constituents mean distributions from sampling agreed with the “grand truth” within a factor of two at 1000 m. Mean distributions of gases involved in photochemistry differed among flight patterns except for ozone. The diurnal cycle of these gases’ concentrations led to overestimation (underestimation) of 20 h means in areas of high (low) concentrations as compared to the “grand truth.” The mean ozone distribution was sensitive to the speed of the virtual UAV. Particulate matter showed the strongest sensitivity to the flight patterns, especially during precipitation.

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Mölders, N. , Butwin, M. , Madden, J. , Tran, H. , Sassen, K. and Kramm, G. (2015) Theoretical Investigations on Mapping Mean Distributions of Particulate Matter, Inert, Reactive, and Secondary Pollutants from Wildfires by Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs). Open Journal of Air Pollution, 4, 149-174. doi: 10.4236/ojap.2015.43014.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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