AIP AQ Scenario A: Smoke and Dust

From Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP)

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Scenario A: Smoke and Dust

Here is an attempt to broaden the scope of the fire AQ scenario. We are broadening the events (dust and fire) but narrowing the decision scope: the new focus is on event analysis. Note that Scenario C is focused on AQ forecasting. This scenario is after-the-fact analysis.


Provide a summary of the scenario and the community that the scenario supports.

Particulate matter has many negative health effects and globally causes hundreds of thousands of premature deaths a year. Particulate matter comes from a wide variety of sources. This scenario focuses on analyzing large events which impact PM over wide areas: fires and dust storms. Such PM events can be triggered by a variety of circumstances – wildfires, agricultural burning whose effects are amplified by meteorological conditions, high desert winds which loft dust, ....

These events need to be well understood for a number of reasons.

  1. they have significant impacts on AQ in receptor areas, with associated health effects
  2. they are useful study cases for understanding long-range transport of air pollutants – amenable to satellite observations
  3. from a regulatory / legal view these are often ‘exceptional events’ (not impacting a region’s legal status regarding air quality attainment)
  4. they may be a significant component of international / intercontinental air pollutant transport
  5. as discrete events, they allow study of (acute) public health impact of poor AQ
  6. as particularly noticeable discrete events, they get the public's attention. It is good to get understanding of such events out to the public. However this scenario is not focused on fast analysis of events.

This scenario supports the science and regulatory communities, and thus is focused on hindsight / after-the-fact analysis as opposed to real-time data / forecasting.

Tangent: How do we link to CEOS ACC project on Fire/Aerosol described in para below?

The ACC is one of four Constellations proposed by CEOS to support the overall goals of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and to provide prototype space-based Earth-observation systems for GEOSS, the Global Earth Observation System of Systems. This project is one of three projects within the ACC demonstration projects. The goal of this prototype is to demonstrate that a constellation can be developed using several satellites synergistically to characterize the global distribution of fire occurrences and aerosol distributions. The fire and aerosol distributions, in conjunction with air parcel trajectory models, can then be integrated to produce a view of current aerosol distributions along with a forecast product related to movement of large-scale aerosol events. The integration of these data sets can be used to produce routine and systematic forecast guidance for users to develop warnings on instances of potential degradation of air quality due to long-range transport of aerosols from widespread burning as well as from naturally occurring dust storms

Identify the specific decisions to be made.


  • Identify data sources
  • When possible can monitoring be intensified during event? (additional monitors, change of duty cycle)
  • Assess air quality forecasts during the event. Does external forcing get adequately handled?
  • Do models represent the transport event adequately? Is this is the overriding question?


  • Assess management / mitigation response during the event
  • Legal / regulatory decision: was it an exceptional event

Provide references for additional information.

White paper on EPA / AirNow actions / Lessons learned in 2007 Wildfire

Context and pre-conditions

Identify the actors in the scenario. Actors are any persons involved in the scenario.

The actors in the smoke scenario include data/information providers, data processors and specialists to deliver tailored information products to the public, AQ managers and scientists. A key set of actors are the actual decision makers ...who interact with the ??.... (this needs work Rhusar)

  • National Environmental agency
  • National Meteorological agency
  • National Health agency (if separate from National Environmental agency)
  • National Land/Forest Management agency
  • National Space agency
  • Local/State/Province Environmental agencies
  • Local/State/Province emergency personnel
  • Consulting companies and other private industry
  • GEOSS Portal integrator? (took from Energy scenario)
  • Local, Regional and National media (print, online, broadcast)
  • Public

List, at a summary level, the specific information assumed to be available before the scenario begins.

The behavior of smoke depends on many factors, including the fire’s size and location, the topography of the area and the weather. Smoke (PM2.5) from large wildland fires can be transported hundreds or thousands of kilometers to a forecast region. Smoke events can increase the background levels of PM2.5, thus combining transported PM2.5 with locally-generated PM2.5 to produce a more severe episode. Depending on concentrations, this transported PM2.5 could trigger an exception event and/or degrade visibility.

Air quality forecasts provide the public with air quality information with which they can make daily lifestyle decisions to protect their health. This information allows people to take precautionary measures to avoid or limit their exposure to unhealthy levels of air quality. Pre-determined safe / unhealthy / hazardous levels of pollutants (from federal/national air quality standards such as the United States NAAQS, Threshold Limit Values (TLVs), etc) and standard descriptions of hazards and effects from PM2.5 help provide context for decision-makers and the public from PM2.5 concentrations or a standardized health index such as the Air Quality Index.

Information available before scenario begins (via GEOSS portals)

  • Meteorological data
    • Observed and forecasted surface meteorological data (such as temperature, surface wind speed and direction, humidity)
    • Observed and forecasted aloft large-scale (1000 km or more) atmospheric parameters (such as 850 and 500 millibar heights, temperature, wind speed, dew point)
    • HYSPLIT trajectories (NAM/NDAS Models (40km) - forward trajectories can be used to estimate the transport direction and potential time the smoke or dust might enter a particular forecast region
  • Geographical data
    • land use for knowing affected and forecast areas
    • demographic data for understanding impacted population: different age groups have different sensitivities to poor AQ, for example
    • fuel type - important input for smoke models BlueSky RAINS
  • Air Quality information
    • Particle pollution ground observations (for United States and Canada, EEA?)
    • Air quality forecasts for particle pollution areas (for United States, AIRNow, Canada, Europe – EEA)
    • Established air quality programs which issue public alerts
  • Air Quality Numerical Forecast Models?
  • Satellite data
  • Specific processing
    • collection / QC of ambient air quality data by an air quality data management system
    • local or regional air quality forecast generated by numerical model (requiring air quality and meteorological data) or human forecaster
    • integrating air quality data, forecasts with available satellite data products
    • develop context and understanding of air quality conditions and forecasts for the event
    • develop and issue communication piece to decision-makers and/or public
    • distribute data/information through established channels
  • GUI development and GEOSS portal integration
    • Exploit Web service description (GEOSS portal integrator)
    • Build GUI (GEOSS portal integrator)
    • map / image production for release to media, public
    • distribute data/information/graphics
    • ?

List, at a summary level, the specific processing and collaboration functionality assumed needed in the scenario.

  • Convenient functionality to register smoke-relevant components in the GEOSS Registry
  • GEOSS-compatible smoke portal used and maintained (?) by the Smoke Community of Practice
  • Identification and accessing the relevant monitoring data (surface, upper air and satellite) using the publish-find-bind SOA protocol
  • Data sharing and integration functionality including (1) registry/catalog for finding resources (2) standard-based access to spatio-temporal data and metadata, workflow software for integrating Service Components
  • Harvesting the data sources from "other" agencies/organizations, Public contributions of first-hand reports, images, videos...
  • A workspace to support the activities of the Smoke Community of Practice, including communal resources on the specific smoke event (and smoke in general?), are assembled ... other Decision Support System functionality... ??
  • Ability to produce near-real-time reports that characterize the smoke event for the Public, AQ managers and Scientists.

Scenario Events

Elaborate the steps that result in the creation of decision support products developed in collaboration by the actors.

Use the table to identify the main sequence of events in the scenario, including alternative branch steps.

  1. Designated and voluntary observers will use a 'virtual observatory' to monitor the current aerosol 'weather' situation over their region of interest (e.g. North America, Central America, Europe, Asia? - do we need to spell out regions? ).
  2. The observers scan the spatial, temporal aerosol pattern on the real-time satellite images, surface monitors, as well as monitoring the electronic media and private citizen reports.
  3. Once an ‘interesting’ smoke event appears, the observers explore the pattern of other peripheral data sources such as weather pattern, trajectories and other monitors to ascertain the emergence of a smoke event.
  4. Throughout the event’s emergence, the observers share their observations and views on a shared virtual workspace, including the the deliberations whether to issue alert(s).
  5. Using standardized Common Notification Protocol), alert(s) are issued to different groups (Public, Regulatory, Science - see) that may need to act or who are interested in observing/participating in smoke monitoring or response action action.
  6. In response to the alert, more intense monitoring and just-in-time analysis is initiated. This includes additional sampling, high resolution targeted smoke source/dispersion modeling, harvesting of other real-time data resources etc.
  7. As the smoke event evolves, a virtual workgroup of analysts summarizes the smoke situation, including sources, transport, aerosol pattern, forecast and impact in a manner suitable for multiple user communities, Public, Regulatory and Science.
  8. Based on those reports and other input, during the smoke event, a multiplicity of decisions and actions are executed by Public, Regulatory and Scientific decision makers.
  9. Following the smoke event, the event is evaluated for its impact, consequences and possibly for detailed retrospective analysis.