CALIPSO Aerosol-Typing Scheme Misclassified Stratospheric Fire Smoke: Case Study From the 2019 Siberian Wildfire Season

Albert Ansmann, Kevin Ohneiser, Alexandra Chudnovsky, Holger Baars, Ronny Engelmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In August 2019, a 4-km thick wildfire smoke layer was observed in the lower stratosphere over Leipzig, Germany, with a ground-based multiwavelength Raman lidar. The smoke was identified by the smoke-specific spectral dependence of the extinction-to-backscatter ratio (lidar ratio) measured with the Raman lidar. The spaceborne CALIPSO (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation) lidar CALIOP (Cloud–Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization) detected the smoke and classified it as sulfate aerosol layer (originating from the Raikoke volcanic eruption). In this article, we discuss the reason for this misclassification. Two major sources for stratospheric air pollution were active in the summer of 2019 and complicated the CALIPSO aerosol typing effort. Besides intense forest fires at mid and high northern latitudes, the Raikoke volcano erupted in the Kuril Islands. We present two cases observed at Leipzig, one from July 2019 and one from August 2019. In July, pure volcanic sulfate aerosol layers were found in the lower stratosphere, while in August, wildfire smoke dominated in the height range up to 4–5 km above the local tropopause. In both cases, the CALIPSO aerosol typing scheme classified the layers as sulfate aerosol layers. The aerosol identification algorithm assumes non-spherical smoke particles in the stratosphere as consequence of fast lifting by pyrocumulonimbus convection. However, we hypothesize (based on presented simulations) that the smoke ascended as a results of self-lifting and reached the tropopause within 2–7 days after emission and finally entered the lower stratosphere as aged spherical smoke particles. These sphercial particles were then classified as liquid sulfate particles by the CALIPSO data analysis scheme. We also present a successful case of smoke identification by the CALIPSO retrieval method.

Original languageEnglish
Article number769852
JournalFrontiers in Environmental Science
StatePublished - 19 Nov 2021


  • Raman lidar
  • aerosol typing
  • lidar ratio
  • stratospheric aerosol
  • volcanic sulfate aerosol
  • wildfire smoke

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science


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