Thursday, January 16, 2014

Atmospheric chemistry

The image above is a ground- and satellite-level perspective of the first day of the Colby Fire.  Atmospheric particulates, from both anthropogenic and natural processes, are especially relevant for fire & drought adapted ecological landscapes like southern California.  From the satellite image you can see smoke plumes being carried by Santa Ana winds from the interior basin through mountain passes in a "downhill" fashion toward the Pacific ocean.  Biological systems actively interact with the atmosphere, and these interactions vary with respect to both the chemistry and the composition of gasses (e.g. volatile organic compounds), particulates (e.g. partial combustion), and emissions (natural & anthropogenic contributions).  In fact, many native plant species are singularly adapted to respond to atmospheric "cues" (e.g. to initiate seed-germination post-fire).  Here's a great paper on the impact of atmospheric deposition on plant chlorophyll content by Prajapati & Tripathi (2008).