Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License


Biomass burning (BB) events are occurring globally with increasing frequency, and their emissions are having more impacts on human health and climate. Large ash particles are recognized as a BB product with major influences on soil and water environments. However, fine-ash particles, which have diameters smaller than several microns and characteristic morphologies and compositions (mainly Ca and Mg carbonates), have not yet been explicitly considered as a major BB aerosol component either in field observations or climate models. This study measured BB aerosol samples using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and ion chromatography during the Fire Influence on Regional to Global Environments and Air Quality (FIREX-AQ) campaign. We show that significant amounts of fine ash-bearing particles are transported >100 km from their fire sources. Our environmental chamber experiments suggest that they can act as cloud condensation and ice nuclei. We also found considerable amounts of fine ash-bearing particles in the TEM samples collected during previous campaigns (Biomass Burning Observation Project and Megacity Initiative: Local and Global Research Observations). These ash particles are commonly mixed with organic matter and make up ∼8% and 5% of BB smoke by number and mass, respectively, in samples collected during the FIREX-AQ campaign. The measured ash-mass concentrations are approximately five times and six times greater than those of BB black carbon and potassium, respectively, scaling to an estimated global emission of 11.6 Tg yr−1 with a range of 8.8–16.3 Tg yr−1. Better characterization and constraints on these fine ash-bearing particles will improve BB aerosol measurements and strengthen assessments of BB impacts on human health and climate.


Earth Systems Research Center

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JGR: Atmospheres



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This is an open access article published by AGU in 2022 in JGR: Atmospheres, available online: