1Institute for Space Applications and Remote Sensing, National Observatory of Athens, Athens, 15236, Greece
2Laboratory of Atmospheric Physics, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece
3Institute of Environmental Research and Sustainable Development, National Observatory of Athens, Athens, 15236, Greece
4Department of Meteorology and Climatology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece
5Laboratory of Climatology, University of Athens, Athens, Greece
Abstract. High frequency of agricultural fires is observed every year during the summer months over SW Russia and Eastern Europe. This study investigates the initial injection height of aerosol generated by the fires over these regions during the biomass burning season, which determines the potential for long-range transport of the smoke. This information is critical for aerosol transport modeling, as it determines the smoke plume evolution. The study focuses on the period 2006–2008, and is based on observations made by the CALIOP instrument on board the NASA CALIPSO satellite. MODIS data are synergistically used for the detection of the fires and the characterization of their intensity. CALIPSO aerosol vertical distributions generated by the active fires are analyzed to investigate the aerosol top height which is considered dependent on the heat generated by the fires and can be associated with the initial injection height. Aerosol top heights of the vertically homogenous smoke layers are found to range between 1.6 and 5.9 km. Smoke injection heights from CALIPSO are compared with mixing layer heights taken by the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecast (ECMWF), to investigate the direct injection of smoke particles into the free troposphere. Our results indicate that the aerosol plumes are observed within the boundary layer for the 50% of the cases examined. For the rest of the cases, the strong updrafts generated by the fires resulted to smoke injection heights greater than the ECMWF estimated mixing layer by 0.5 to 3.0 km, indicating a direct smoke injection into the free troposphere. The smoke injection height showed a dependence on the MODIS-Land Fire Radiative Power product which is indicative of the fire intensity, especially in the cases of lower static stability in the upper part of the boundary layer and the free troposphere.