An observational and modeling strategy to investigate the impact of remote sources on local air quality: A Houston, Texas, case study from the Second Texas Air Quality Study (TexAQS II)
Quantifying the impacts of remote sources on individual air quality exceedances remains a significant challenge for air quality forecasting. One goal of the 2006 Second Texas Air Quality Study (TexAQS II) was to assess the impact of distant sources on air quality in east Texas. From 23 to 30 August 2006, retrievals of tropospheric carbon monoxide (CO) from NASA's Atmospheric InfraRed Sounder (AIRS) reveal the transport of CO from fires in the United States Pacific Northwest to Houston, Texas. This transport occurred behind a cold front and contributed to the worst ozone exceedance period of the summer in the Houston area. We present supporting satellite observations from the NASA A-Train constellation of the vertical distribution of smoke aerosols and CO. Ground-based in situ CO measurements in Oklahoma and Texas track the CO plume as it moves south and indicate mixing of the aloft plume to the surface by turbulence in the nocturnal boundary layer and convection during the day. Ground-based aerosol speciation and lidar observations do not find appreciable smoke aerosol transport for this case. However, MODIS aerosol optical depths and model simulations indicate some smoke aerosols were transported from the Pacific Northwest through Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. Chemical transport and forward trajectory models confirm the three major observations: (1) the AIRS envisioned CO transport, (2) the satellite determined smoke plume height, and (3) the timing of the observed surface CO increases. Further, the forward trajectory simulations find two of the largest Pacific Northwest fires likely had the most significant impact.