Transport of boreal forest fire emissions from Canada to Europe

C Forster*, U Wandinger, G Wotawa, P James, [No Value] Mattis, D Althausen, P Simmonds, S O'Doherty, SG Jennings, C Kleefeld, J Schneider, T Trickl, S Kreipl, H Jager, A Stohl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


In August 1998, severe forest fires occurred in many parts of Canada, especially in the Northwest Territories. In the week from August 5 to 11, more than 1000 different fires burned >1 x 10(6) ha of boreal forest, the highest 1-week sum ever reported throughout the 1990s. In this study we can unambigously show for the first time that these fires caused pronounced large-scale haze layers above Europe and that they influenced concentrations of carbon monoxide and other trace gases at the surface station Mace Head in Ireland over a period of weeks. Transport took place across several thousands of kilometers. An example of such an event, in which a pronounced aerosol layer was observed at an altitude of 3-6 km over Germany during August 1998, is investigated in detail. Backward trajectories ending at the measured aerosol layer are calculated and shown to have their origin in the forest fire region. Simulations with a particle dispersion model reveal how a substantial amount of forest fire emissions was transported across the Atlantic. The resulting aerosol lamina over Europe is captured well by the model. In addition, the model demonstrates that the forest fire emissions polluted large regions over Europe during the second half of August 1998. Surface measurements at Mace Head are compared to the model results for an anthropogenic and a forest fire carbon monoxide tracer, respectively. While wet deposition removed considerable amounts of aerosol during its transport, forest fire carbon monoxide reached Europe in copious amounts. It is estimated that during August 1998, 32%, 10%, and 58% of the carbon monoxide enhancement over the background level at Mace Head were caused by European and North American anthropogenic emissions and forest fire emissions, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22887-22906
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue numberD19
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2001



Cite this