South American Biomass Burning Analysis (SAMBBA)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Meteorology


Biomass burning aerosol (BBA) exerts a considerable impact on regional radiation budgets as it significantly perturbs the surface fluxes and atmospheric heating rates and its CCN properties perturb cloud microphysics and hence affect cloud radiative properties, precipitation and cloud lifetime. It is likely that such large influences on heating rates and CCN will affect regional weather predictions in addition to climatic changes. It is increasingly recognised that biomass burning affects the biosphere but the magnitude of the effects need to quantified. However, BBA is a complex and poorly understood aerosol species because of the mixing of the black carbon with organic and inorganic species. Furthermore, emission rates are poorly quantified and difficult to represent in models.
It is now timely to address these challenges as both measurement methods and model capabilities have developed rapidly over the last few years and are now sufficiently advanced that the processes and properties of BBA can be sufficiently constrained by measurements; these can be used to challenge the new aerosol schemes used in numerical weather prediction (NWP) and climate models.
Amazonia is one of the most important biomass burning regions in the world, being significantly impacted by intense biomass burning during the dry season leading to highly turbid conditions, and is therefore a key environment for quantifying these processes and determining the influence of these interactions on the weather and climate of the region. Though previous large scale studies of BBA over Amazonia and its radiative impacts have been performed, these are now over a decade old and considerable scientific progress can be made towards addressing all of the above questions given the rapid advance of models and measurements in recent years. We are therefore proposing a major consortium programme, SAMBBA, a consortium of 7 university partners and the UK Met Office, which will deliver a suite of ground, aircraft and satellite measurements of Amazonian BBA and use this data to 1) improve our knowledge of BB emissions; 2) challenge and improve the latest aerosol process models; 3) challenge and improve satellite retrievals; 4) test predictions of aerosol influences on regional climate and weather over Amazonia and the surrounding regions made using the next generation of climate and NWP models with extensive prognostic aerosol schemes; and 5) assess the impact of .biomass burning on the Amazonian biosphere.
The main field experiment will take place during September 2012 and is based in Porto Vehlo, Brazil. At this time of year, widespread burning takes place across the region leading to highly turbid conditions. The UK large research aircraft (FAAM) will be used to sample aerosol chemical, physical and optical properties and gas phase precursor concentrations. Measurements of radiation will also be made using advanced radiometers on board the aircraft and satellite data will also be utilised.
The influences of biomass burning aerosols are highly significant at local, weather, seasonal, and climate temporal scales necessitating the use of a hierarchy of models to establish and test key processes and quantify impacts. We will challenge models carrying detailed process descriptions of biomass burning aerosols with the new, comprehensive observations being made during SAMBBA to evaluate model performance and to improve parameterisations. Numerical Weather Prediction and Climate model simulations with a range of complexity and spatial resolution will be used to investigate the ways in which absorbing aerosol may influence dynamics and climate on regional and wider scales. At the heart of the approach is the use of a new range of models that can investigate such interactions using coupled descriptions of aerosols and clouds to fully investigate feedbacks at spatial scales that are sufficiently well resolved to assess such processes.

Planned Impact

Regional climate variability and modification of regional weather, including precipitation, over a region as important as Amazonia is a highly significant social, political and scientific issue. The SAMBBA project will therefore have significant impact across a wide spectrum of stakeholders.

Who will benefit from this research?
Scientific community. This work will be of significant scientific interest nationally and internationally, in particular this work will benefit Brazilian science and mutual benefit will be derived between SAMBBA and the US Department of Energy GO-Amazon team.

Business. SAMBBA is a direct collaboration with several research groups in the Met Office and will have a direct feed through to future improvements in Numerical Weather Prediction and Climate modelling. INPE, the Brazilian Space agency is the organisation responsible for regional climate modelling and operation forecasting in Brazil. INPE are a partner in this proposal and will directly benefit from our research. The European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) will also collaborate on SAMBBA and will benefit from the outcomes of the programme.

General public/media. There has been significant publicity in recent years on aerosols, clouds and climate and also on Amazonia, biomass burning and deforestation. However, there remains significant lack of knowledge surrounding these issues and clear information needs to be conveyed to the public.

Policymakers. Amazonia is a highly important ecosystem offering one of the largest carbon stores on the planet. This project will have a direct bearing on understanding the role of BB aerosol in regional climate change for policymaking purposes. Therefore, policymakers in government and scientific bodies (such as IPCC) will all be users of the project outcomes.

How will they benefit?
Scientific community. New ground based and airborne measurements over Amazonia will be important for the scientific community. Aerosol processes in models will be tested in an extremely important environment - Amazonia. New synthesise of aerosol-cloud interactions with weather and regional climate will be delivered over the region. Project results will be widely reported in publications, international conferences etc. Project results will feed into future IPCC assessments.

Policymakers. Project PIs have provided advice to the UK government, contributed to EU policy committees, as well as to IPCC and WMO panels and assessments. Many opportunities exist for SAMBBA scientists to raise awareness of the role of biomass burning aerosols over Amazonia. SAMBBA will inform the US DoE atmospheric science programme. In addition, project PDRAs will be encouraged to participate in the various 'science into policy' schemes that exist with the Royal Society and NERC.

Business. The UK Met Office is a key partner and beneficiary of SAMBBA science. New aerosol-cloud schemes in NWP and climate models will be tested for biomass burning aerosol. Improved BB emissions schemes resulting from SAMBBA will also be incorporated into the Met Office UM models and into the ECMWF operational model. INPE will obtain increased knowledge of air quality prediction over the region and will work with SAMBBA to obtain a better understanding of the vertical distribution of BB aerosol in the region.

General public/media. Our aim will be to raise awareness of the role of the BB Aerosols and improve scientific understanding surrounding aerosol-cloud-climate interactions. We will do this by media interviews and press releases during the project. Articles for popular science magazines will be produced. A project website will be established along with a website aimed at presenting our science to schoolchildren. Through podcasts and other web technologies we will aim to reach a wide audience. Local events such as national science week and presentations to local schools enhance the outreach from this project


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Description Aerosol emitted from biomass burning in Brazil affects the local cloud distribution, with aerosol that contains a lot of soot burning off the low level cloud. The heating from the aerosol also changes the circulation pattern and surface fluxes in the peak biomass season. There appears to be a small influence on the development of the monsoon in South America following the peak biomass season, but natural variability makes this difficult to confirm absolutely.
Exploitation Route New experiments or changes to aerosol parameters in global climate models.
Sectors Environment

Title SAMBBA simulations 
Description Simulations of the Met Office UM climate model, atmosphere only, with altered S. American Biomass Burning aerosol emissions and altered single scattering albedo emissions 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Publications in preparation. 
Description SAMBBA Met Office 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Carrying out research, presenting results at Met Office. Preparing joint outputs
Collaborator Contribution Providing emissions fields for model input - enabling mode experiments - comments on publications
Impact Publication Thornhill et al (2017)
Start Year 2011
Description EGU 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Conference talks at AGU, EGU and Living world. Audience other academics
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016