Impacts of a prescribed fire on air quality in Central New Mexico
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Christian M. Carrico; Jaimy Karacaoglu
Publication Year: 2023

Cataloging Information

  • aerosols
  • biomass burning
  • climate forcing
  • HYSPLIT - Hybrid Single-Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory
  • New Mexico
  • PM - particulate matter
  • PM2.5
  • visibility
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: February 23, 2023
FRAMES Record Number: 67593


A short-duration but high-impact air quality event occurred on 28 November 2018 along the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico. This fire occurred outside the typical wildfire season, and greatly impacted the air quality in Socorro, NM, and the surroundings. Measurements were taken during the event using an aerosol light scattering technique (integrating nephelometer) and a particulate mass concentration monitor (DustTrak PM optical monitor). The instruments sampled the ambient air during the event on the campus of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, New Mexico. The peak values on a 5-min basis of light scattering and the PM mass concentration reached 470 Mm−1 and 270 µg/m3, respectively. We examined the meteorological context of the event using local meteorological data and back trajectories using the NOAA HYSPLIT model to determine atmospheric transport and possible sources. Several fires, both prescribed and wildfires, occurred in the region including a prescribed burn at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (17 km south-southeast of the receptor site). The data suggest that the prescribed burn at Bosque del Apache was the dominant contributor due to transport evidence and the event’s narrow spatiotemporal extent. The increasing importance of restoring ecosystem function using prescribed fire in wildland fire management will likely lead to more frequent air quality impacts and sets up policy tradeoffs that require a balance between these public goals. This study examines the evidence of the effects of a prescribed fire in a protected wildland area impacting the air quality in a nearby populated area.

Online Link(s):
Carrico, Christian M.; Karacaoglu, Jaimy. 2023. Impacts of a prescribed fire on air quality in Central New Mexico. Atmosphere 14(2):316.