Assessing Forest Canopy Impacts on Smoke Concentrations Using a Coupled Numerical Model
The impact of a forest canopy on smoke concentration is assessed by applying a numerical weather prediction model coupled with a Lagrangian particle dispersion model to two low-intensity wildland (prescribed) fires in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. A comparison with observations indicates that the coupled numerical model can reproduce some of the observed variations in surface smoke concentrations and plume heights. Model sensitivity analyses highlight the eect of the forest canopy on simulated meteorological conditions, smoke concentrations, and plume heights. The forest canopy decreases near-surface wind speed, increases buoyancy, and increases turbulent mixing. Sensitivities to the time of day, plant area density profiles, and fire heat fluxes are documented. Analyses of temporal variations in smoke concentrations indicate that the eect of the transition from a daytime to a nocturnal planetary boundary layer is weaker when sensible heat fluxes from the fires are stronger. The results illustrate the challenges in simulating meteorological conditions and smoke concentrations at scales where interactions between the fire, fuels, and atmosphere are critically important. The study demonstrates the potential for predictive tools to be developed and implemented that could help fire and air-quality managers assess local air-quality impacts during low-intensity wildland fires in forested environments.