Crop residue burning is a common land management practice that results in emissions of a variety of pollutants with negative health impacts. Modeling systems are used to estimate air quality impacts of crop residue burning to support retrospective regulatory assessments and also for forecasting purposes. Ground and airborne measurements from a recent field experiment in the Pacific Northwest focused on cropland residue burning was used to evaluate model performance in capturing surface and aloft impacts from the burning events. The Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model was used to simulate multiple crop residue burns with 2 km grid spacing using field-specific information and also more general assumptions traditionally used to support National Emission Inventory based assessments. Field study specific information, which includes area burned, fuel consumption, and combustion completeness, resulted in increased biomass consumption by 123 tons (60% increase) on average compared to consumption estimated with default methods in the National Emission Inventory (NEI) process. Buoyancy heat flux, a key parameter for model predicted fire plume rise, estimated from fuel loading obtained from field measurements can be 30% to 200% more than when estimated using default field information. The increased buoyancy heat flux resulted in higher plume rise by 30% to 80%. This evaluation indicates that the regulatory air quality modeling system can replicate intensity and transport (horizontal and vertical) features for crop residue burning in this region when region-specific information is used to inform emissions and plume rise calculations. Further, previous vertical emissions allocation treatment of putting all cropland residue burning in the surface layer does not compare well with measured plume structure and these types of burns should be modeled more similarly to prescribed fires such that plume rise is based on an estimate of buoyancy.
Zhou, Luxi; Baker, Kirk R.; Napelenok, Sergey L.; Pouliot, George; Elleman, Robert; O'Neill, Susan M.; Urbanski, Shawn P.; Wong, David C. 2018. Modeling crop residue burning experiments to evaluate smoke emissions and plume transport. Science of the Total Environment. 627: 523-533.