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Impact of biomass burnings in Southeast Asia on air quality and pollutant transport during the end of the 2019 dry season

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At the end of the dry season, March and April in Southeast Asia (SEA), agricultural refuse burnings occur over the region, mainly in the countries of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, in preparation for the wet rice plantation. In this study, the impact of biomass burnings at the height of the burning period in March 2019 in mainland SEA on air quality and pollutant transport is modelled using the Weather Research Forecast WRF-Chem air quality model with emission input from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Fire Emission Inventory from NCAR (FINN). FINN is derived from satellite remote sensing data and species emission factors. A simulation of the dispersion of pollutants from biomass burnings from 13 to 19 March 2019, when the burnings was most intense, was performed. Validation of the model prediction using observed meteorological and pollutant data such as AOD measurements on ground from AERONET (Aerosol Robotic Network) and data from MODIS and CALIPSO satellites is carried out at various sites in the region. The results show that impact on air quality was most pronounced in Thailand and Laos but the effect of biomass burnings in mainland SEA at the end of the dry season is widespread in terms of pollutant dispersion and population exposure over the whole region and beyond. It is also shown that the transport of pollutants from biomass burnings in SEA to southern China, Taiwan and beyond is facilitated by the Truong Son mountain range, when under westerly wind, acting as a launching pad to uplift the pollutant plumes to higher altitude which then can be dispersed widely and transported farther from the biomass burning sources in Thailand and Laos.

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Data availability statement

The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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The MERRA-2 data used in this study/project were provided by the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO) at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. CALIPSO satellite products were from NASA Langley Research Center ( The TMPA data were provided by the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center’s Mesoscale Atmospheric Processes Laboratory and PPS, which develop and compute the TMPA as a contribution to TRMM.

For AERONET data, we thank the principal investigators and co-investigators and their staff for establishing and maintaining the 4 sites used in this investigation.

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Authors and Affiliations



Conceptualisation, HN; methodology, HN; data procurement: HN, BH, TD; formal analysis, HN, QN, QN; investigation, HN, BH; writing—original draft preparation, HN, BH, TD; visualisation, HN; supervision, HN and QN; and project administration, HN.

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Correspondence to Hiep Nguyen Duc.

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Appendix 1

Fig. 17
figure 17

MODIS Terra/Aqua AOD on 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 March 2019 over Southeast Asia

Appendix 2

Fig. 18
figure 18

Predicted PM2.5 and wind pattern on 16/3/2019 12:00 UTC at heights 900 hPa (~ 1000 m), 850 hPa (~ 1500 m), 700 hPa (~ 3000 m) and 600 hPa (~ 3500 m)

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Duc, H.N., Bang, H.Q., Quan, N.H. et al. Impact of biomass burnings in Southeast Asia on air quality and pollutant transport during the end of the 2019 dry season. Environ Monit Assess 193, 565 (2021).

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