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  • Modelling transport, dispersion and secondary pollutant

    formation of emissions from burning vegetation

    using air quality dispersion models

    Research Report No. 53

    Orestis Denis Valianatos, Kevin Tolhurst, Steven Siems, Nigel Tapper

    December 2003

    This report was commissioned by

    Fire Management Department of Sustainability and Environment

    Victoria

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    For further information contact:

    DSE Customer Service Centre 136 186

    © State of Victoria

    Department of Sustainability and Environment December 2003

    This publication is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for private study, research, criticism or review as

    permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval

    system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior

    permission of the copyright owner.

    ISBN 1 74106 781 2

    Department of Sustainability and Environment,

    PO Box 500, East Melbourne, Victoria, 3002.

    www.dse.vic.gov.au/fires

    This publication may be of assistance to you, but the State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the

    publication is without flaw of any kind, or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes, and therefore

    disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information

    in this publication.

    Cover photograph by Ian Worrell.

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    Foreword

    Concerns regarding air quality from people living on the edge of cities and in rural towns provide an added dimension to the management of both prescribed fires and, to an extent, wildfires. In the late 1990s, the-then Department of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE – now the Department of Sustainability and Environment) and the Bureau of Meteorology began jointly developing a sophisticated ‘smoke management service’. After considerable initial success, this research project became national through the involvement of the Australasian Fire Authorities Council.

    Emissions from fires depend on the type, moisture content and structure of the fuel being burned and the intensity of the fire. Once those emissions are released, the transport and dispersion of the smoke is dependent on the height of the plume rising from the fire, the wind profile, the stability of the atmosphere and the nature and properties of the smoke itself.

    This report summarises the original work and details the initial outcomes achieved.

    Much is yet to be learnt about the emissions from Australian vegetation and the transport and dispersion of the smoke, but enough general principles exist to allow for some guidelines to be prepared.

    A number of individuals made significant contributions to this ground-breaking work. Particular credit is due, however, to Dr Orestis Valianatos whose knowledge, ability and enthusiasm contributed so significantly to not only the work described in this report, but to the significant advances that have been made in Australia in this area in recent years. Particular credit is also due to Mr Kevin O’Loughlin, the-then Regional Director, Victoria, of the Bureau of Meteorology, for the strong support he provided for the project.

    With the recent establishment of a Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, further significant advances will hopefully occur in the prediction and management of smoke. This will see not only improved benefits being realised by rural fire agencies, but also obviously by the wider community.

    Gary Morgan AFSM

    CHIEF FIRE OFFICER Department of Sustainability and Environment

    December 2003

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    Contents

    Foreword .................................................................................................................................iii

    Introduction.............................................................................................................................1 Fire in ecosystems....................................................................................................................................1 Fire management systems......................................................................................................................2 Minimising the impacts of smoke ........................................................................................................2 Monitoring smoke emissions ................................................................................................................3 Objectives of the study...........................................................................................................................4

    Fuel characterisation .............................................................................................................5 The need for fuel characterisation.......................................................................................................5 Fuelbeds .....................................................................................................................................................6 Vegetation typology.................................................................................................................................6

    Emission modelling systems ...............................................................................................7 Defining emissions from biomass burning ........................................................................................7 Modelling smoke emissions...................................................................................................................7 Emission models available .....................................................................................................................8 Current international research programs.........................................................................................10 Future research on emission modelling............................................................................................10

    Plume rise modelling...........................................................................................................12 Modelling of transport, dispersion and secondary pollutant formation .................13

    Pollutants in the atmosphere ..............................................................................................................13 Air Quality Dispersion Models ............................................................................................................13 Assessing AQDMs ..................................................................................................................................14

    Risk assessment of emissions from fires .......................................................................17 Predicting smoke intrusions................................................................................................................17 Visibility ...................................................................................................................................................17 Visibility models available ...................................................................................................................18

    Verification and validation of the Smoke Management System................................19 Verification and validation ..................................................................................................................19 Sampling information ...........................................................................................................................20 Ground-level sampling..........................................................................................................................20 Aircraft sampling ...................................................................................................................................21 Remote sensing measurements ..........................................................................................................22 Non-conventional measurements.......................................................................................................22

    Application, implication and benefits..............................................................................23 Research benefits...................................................................................................................................23 Industry links and interests.................................................................................................................23

    Acknowledgments ...............................................................................................................24

    Bibliography ..........................................................................................................................25

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    Appendix 1 Chemical transport model used by the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research (DAR).....28

    Appendix 2 A chemical transport model used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ...................31

  • Modelling of vegetation burning emissions - Valianatos, Tolhurst, Tapper & Siems (2003) 1

    Introduction

    Fire in ecosystems

    Fire is an integral component of many native Australian ecosystems. Periodic wildfires a