10 Feb 2023
 | 10 Feb 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Investigation of the effects of the Greek extreme wildfires of August 2021 on air quality and spectral solar irradiance

Akriti Masoom, Ilias Fountoulakis, Stelios Kazadzis, Ioannis-Panagiotis Raptis, Anna Kampouri, Basil Psiloglou, Dimitra Kouklaki, Kyriakoula Papachristopoulou, Eleni Marinou, Stavros Solomos, Anna Gialitaki, Dimitra Founda, Vasileios Salamalikis, Dimitris Kaskaoutis, Natalia Kouremeti, Nikolaos Mihalopoulos, Vassilis Amiridis, Andreas Kazantzidis, Christos S. Zerefos, and Kostas Eleftheratos

Abstract. In August 2021, a historic heatwave was recorded in Greece which resulted in extreme wildfire events that strongly affected the air quality over the city of Athens. Saharan dust was also transferred over Greece in the same period due to the prevailing southern winds. The impact of these events on air quality and surface solar radiation are investigated in this study. Event characterization based on active and passive remote sensing instrumentation has been performed. The study shows that significantly increased levels of air pollution were recorded during the end of July/first week of August. The smoke led to unusually high AOD values (up to 3.6), high Ångström Exponent (AE) (up to 2.4) and a strong and negative dependence of single scattering albedo (SSA) on wavelength that was observed to decrease from 0.93 at 440 nm to 0.86 at 1020 nm signifying the presence of strong absorbing aerosols. While, the dust event led to high AOD (up to 1.4), low AE (up to 0.9) and positive dependence of SSA on wavelength that was observed to increase from 0.89 at 440 nm to 0.95 at 1020 nm indicating large forward scattering due to coarse particles. Furthermore, the analysis of the smoke aerosol optical properties during the transfer from the source to a distance of about 240 km revealed that the SSA and AE changed significantly during the transfer, which lasted approximately 9 h. The transport of the plume led to an impressive change in the spectral shape of SSA whose value significantly increased pointing to the aging of smoke and the dilution of plumes while the transport. The impact of dust and smoke on spectral solar irradiance reveals significant differences in the spectral shape of attenuation caused by the two different aerosol species. The attenuation of solar irradiance in UV-B irradiance was found to be least in case of dust and highest due to smoke (up to 60 % or more) and intermediate in the case of a mixture of smoke and dust. The attenuation was comparatively less in NIR region (mostly within 20 % but it even reached up to 40 % in the presence of smoke) and VIS region (but greater than NIR region). Also, the AOD variations from climatology led to decrease in UV Index up to 53 %, in vitamin-D up to 50 %, in photosynthetically active radiation up to 21 % and in GHI up to 17 %, with implications on health, agriculture and energy. This study highlights the wider impacts of wildfires that are part of the wider problem of the Mediterranean countries, whose frequency is predicted to increase in view of the projected increasing occurrence of summer heatwaves.

Akriti Masoom et al.

Status: open (until 24 Mar 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-180', Anonymous Referee #1, 28 Feb 2023 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-180', Anonymous Referee #2, 13 Mar 2023 reply

Akriti Masoom et al.

Akriti Masoom et al.


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Short summary
We analyse the spatial and temporal aerosol spectral optical properties during the extreme wildfires of August 2021 in Greece and assess their effects on air quality and solar radiation quantities related to health, agriculture, and energy. Different aerosol conditions are identified (pure smoke, pure dust, dust-smoke together) and largest impact on solar radiation quantities is found for cases with mixed dust-smoke aerosols. Such situations are expected to occur more frequently in the future.