1Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, 82234 Wessling, Germany
2Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU), P.O. Box 100, 2027 Kjeller, Norway
3CNRS Service Aeronomie, Universite Pierre et Marie Curie. 4 Place Jussieu, 75252 Paris Cedex 05, France
4Laboratory of Atmospheric Chemistry, Paul Scherrer Institute, 5232 Villigen PSI, Switzerland
Abstract. During the ICARTT-ITOP Experiment in summer 2004 plumes from large wildfires in North America were transported to Central Europe at 3–8 km altitude above sea level (a.s.l.). These plumes were studied with the DLR (Deutsches Zentrum fuer Luft- und Raumfahrt) research aircraft Falcon which was equipped with an extensive set of in situ aerosol and trace gas instruments. Analyses by the Lagrangian dispersion model FLEXPART provided source regions, transport times and horizontal extent of the fire plumes. Results from the general circulation model ECHAM/MADE and data from previous aerosol studies over Central Europe provided reference vertical profiles of black carbon (BC) mass concentrations for year 2000 conditions with forest fire activities below the long-term average. Smoke plume observations yielded a BC mass fraction of total aerosol mass with respect to PM 2.5 of 2–8%. The ratio of BC mass to excess CO was 3–7.5 mg BC (g CO)−1. Even after up to 10 days of atmospheric transport, both characteristic properties were of the same order as for fresh emissions. This suggests an efficient lifting of BC from forest fires to higher altitudes with only minor scavenging removal of particulate matter. Maximum aerosol absorption coefficient values were 7–8 Mm−1 which is about two orders of magnitude above the average European free tropospheric background value. Forest fire aerosol size distributions were characterised by a strong internally mixed accumulation mode centred at modal diameters of 0.25–0.30 µm with an average distribution width of 1.30. Nucleation and small Aitken mode particles were almost completely depleted.