Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Siberian forest fires partly to blame for Seattle area violating EPA ozone limit


Smoke from giant Siberian forest fires pushed one measure of Seattle’s air quality past federal environmental limits on at least one day in 2003, new research shows.

And the rapidly changing climate in northern latitudes makes it likely such fires will have increasingly serious ramifications for air quality all along the West Coast of North America, said Dan Jaffe, an environmental scientist at the University of Washington, Bothell.

"In the past, we haven’t considered that long-range transport can bring in pollution levels that are significant," Jaffe said. "What we’re finding is that these events can bring in significant levels of pollution, even to urban areas where the levels already are relatively high."

In the spring and summer of 2003, Siberian forest fires consumed 46.7 million acres, or nearly 73,000 square miles – an area slightly larger than the state of Washington. That was more than twice the annual average from 1996 until 2003. The fires burned most intensely during May and June, and the smoke plume was tracked by satellites and detected during a research flight off the Washington coast on June 2.

Between May 27 and June 9, air quality monitors in British Columbia and Washington detected levels of ozone that were higher than average for that period. Previous daily data had been gathered from May through September in 1996 through 2003. Ozone readings during that time varied according to temperature, but generally ranged from a low of a few parts per billion by volume to around 80 parts per billion. Between June 1 and June 6, the monitor sites recorded ozone nine to 17 parts per billion by volume higher than normal, and the surface monitoring suggested a continual influence from the Siberian fires, as did the June 2 research flight.

On June 6, the ozone-monitoring site at Enumclaw, Wash., about 30 miles southeast of Seattle, registered an eight-hour average of 96 parts per billion by volume. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limit is 80 parts per billion for an eight-hour period.

In the upper atmosphere, ozone protects the Earth from harmful solar ultraviolet rays. In the lower atmosphere and at the surface it is a pollutant – found, for instance, in smoke and automobile exhaust – that can cause various health problems, particularly respiratory difficulties.

Ozone levels tend to rise with temperature, but the level recorded on June 6 exceeded what was expected for the temperature that day, Jaffe said. The high temperature that day at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, about 90 degrees, had been recorded 12 times from 1996 through 2002, with an average eight-hour ozone level of about 79 parts per billion on those days. The 96 parts per billion on June 6 was substantially higher, and virtually all of the excess could be attributed to the Siberian fires.

"Would we have violated the EPA standard without the Siberian fires? It would have been really close. I don’t think we would have," Jaffe said.

He noted that despite the Siberian smoke, the vast majority of ozone registered in Enumclaw on June 6, 2003, came from local sources.

Jaffe is the lead author of a paper detailing the work that has been accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of Geophysical Research Letters and will be published online Aug. 20. Co-authors are Isaac Bertschi, also from the UW Bothell campus; Lyatt Jaegle from the UW Seattle campus; Paul Novelli of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Jeffrey Reid and Douglas Westphal of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory; Hiroshi Tanimoto of Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies; and Roxanne Vingarzan of Environment Canada. The work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Previous research has suggested that as climate warms, northern temperate-zone forests are likely to become drier during the spring and summer, with snow melting earlier in the year and creating an earlier and more prolonged fire season.

The new research, Jaffe said, suggests a link between climate change, temperate-zone forest fires, long-range transportation of pollutants and human health. It has health implications throughout western North America, and shows that western U.S. cities might have a harder time in the future meeting air quality standards, he said.

"Siberia has perhaps warmed more than anywhere else on the planet in the last 50 years," he said. "If there is increasing burning in Siberia, then we will see higher levels of ozone."

Vince Stricherz | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>