Flying through wildfire smoke plumes could improve smoke forecasts

New research draws on WE-CAN field campaign

Nov 4, 2020 - by Staff

Wildfires burning in the West affect not only the areas burned, but also the wider regions covered by smoke. As hazy skies and hazardous air quality become regular features of late summer weather, scientists are working to better understand the plumes.

New research, led by the University of Washington with co-authors from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), shows that smoke forecasts may incorrectly predict the amount of particles in staler smoke. The research draws on observations taken during a 2018 field campaign, the Western Wildfire Experiment to Cloud Chemistry, Aerosol Absorption and Nitrogen (WE-CAN). It was published Nov. 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.

“The science is very significant as it’s part of the complicated puzzle that needs to be solved to accurately represent fire plume chemistry in large-scale air quality models in order to predict wildfire impacts on the environment and human health,” said NCAR scientist Frank Flocke, a co-author of the paper.

Additional NCAR co-authors included Teresa Campos, Samuel Hall, Kirk Ullmann, and Xuan Zhang.

For more, see the University of Washington news release.

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