An observing campaign investigates the impact of fires on air quality and climate
Fire risks to human health and property have increased in recent decades due to the impacts of a warmer, drier climate on ecosystems as well as historic land use and management practices. Smoke from wildfires in the western United States and agricultural fires in crop-producing regions such as the southeastern United States increasingly impacts air quality, with expected negative effects on human health.
The impacts of smoke on atmospheric conditions depend on many factors: the kind of fuel being burned, weather and climate conditions at ignition, and how smoke moves through the atmosphere. To help improve understanding of how these conditions influence air quality, the summer 2019 FIREX-AQ (Fire Influence on Regional to Global Environments and Air Quality) field campaign brought together hundreds of scientists from NOAA, NASA, USDA Forest Service, and more than 40 additional partners to sample fire emissions in the northwestern and southeastern United States. Over two months, researchers used aircraft, satellite, and ground-based instrumentation to investigate the chemistry and fate of trace gases and aerosols in smoke from wildfires and agricultural fires. To investigate fires in more detail than any previous study¾from the fuels on the ground to long-term climate impacts and everything in between¾the multi-agency collaboration leveraged assets and resources from all partners involved in FIREX-AQ.
Data from the campaign will be used to improve satellite-based estimates of emissions from wildfires and agricultural burns as well as understanding of the atmospheric impacts of fires. These advances will in turn improve climate and air quality models and help provide better information to public health and land management officials.
1 Vose, J.M., D.L. Peterson, G.M. Domke, C.J. Fettig, L.A. Joyce, R.E. Keane, C.H. Luce, J.P. Prestemon, L.E. Band, J.S. Clark, N.E. Cooley, A. D’Amato, and J.E. Halofsky, 2018: Forests. In Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II [Reidmiller, D.R., C.W. Avery, D.R. Easterling, K.E. Kunkel, K.L.M. Lewis, T.K. Maycock, and B.C. Stewart (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 232–267. doi: 10.7930/NCA4.2018.CH6