Agriculture Crop Burning in Northwestern India and Its Impact on Atmospheric Pollution and Air Quality

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 3:10 PM
Ramesh P Singh, Sharda University, Tustin, India; Chapman University, Orange, CA, United States, Akshansha Chauhan, Vidya College of Engineering, Meerut, India and Gonzalo Gonzalez Abad, Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA, United States
Crop burning season, over northern India, occurs during October-November and April-May after harvesting season. The mechanized harvesting started in 1986, and every year crop residues are burnt in the northwestern parts of India. During post-monsoon season, October – November, the boundary layer is shallow; as a result the crop burning greatly impacts the regional air quality and climate of the northern parts of south Asia. Due to intense burning episodes, heavy smoke pollution-laden plumes are transported all along the Indo-Gangetic basin in the northern parts of India, depending upon diurnal changes in the wind patterns. We find that, in general, the dominant westerly winds transport the plumes and emissions far away from the source region up to the eastern parts of Indo-Gangetic basin, further dispersing over central India to the south. We use retrievals of formaldehyde and nitrogen dioxide and Aerosol Index from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) onboard NASA Aura satellite together with Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) onboard NASA Terra and Aqua fire counts to assess the seasonal variation and geographical extent of the emissions due to burning of crop residues. In addition, our results, based on satellite measurements, indicate that the smoke plumes and biomass burning emissions are also transported over the Himalayan region and beyond, resulting in enhanced concentrations of aerosol loading and trace gases. Overall, our findings suggest that, during post-monsoon season, crop burning smoke plumes and emissions are the main cause of poor air quality, high atmospheric pollution and dense haze/smog, especially in the Indo-Gangetic basin.