Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

O, no: Ozone levels elevated in presence of wildfire smoke

26.01.2016

For those living with the threat to life and property from wildfires, Colorado State University scientists have some more bad news: Wildfire smoke seems to elevate levels of ozone, a nasty air pollutant with proven adverse health effects.

The influence of wildfire smoke on ozone levels during summer months in the United States is not well understood. CSU atmospheric science researchers took a comprehensive, multi-year look at this secondary, insidious effect of raging wildfires.


The High Park Fire devastated more than 87,000 acres in the mountains west of Fort Collins, Colorado in 2012. This photo was taken June 9, 2012 at 12:30 p.m.

Credit: Steven Brey/Colorado State University

Published in Environmental Science and Technology, the new study quantifies what wildfire smoke does to ozone levels over a nearly 10-year span, integrating data from hundreds of monitoring sites dotting the country.

Across the U.S., ozone levels were higher on smoky days than on smoke-free days, according to the study led by Steven Brey, a graduate student working with Emily Fischer, assistant professor of atmospheric science in CSU's College of Engineering. According to Brey's analysis, a number of urban areas had smoke present during 10 percent to 20 percent of days when the standard Environmental Protection Agency ozone levels of 70 parts per billion (ppb) were exceeded. The EPA reset the ozone standard down from 75 ppb late last year, making it more stringent.

Ozone is one of six "criteria pollutants" monitored by the EPA, and its adverse effects particularly on the young, elderly and people with asthma are well documented. "Good up high; bad nearby" is the EPA's description of ozone - the ozone layer of the Earth's atmosphere protects us from UV radiation from space, but down where we breathe, it damages lungs and destroys crops and ecosystems.

Typically, the effect of smoke on ozone levels is studied on a "plume-by-plume basis," Fischer explained. "A wildfire will be burning and someone will take an aircraft, like the NSF/NCAR C-130 or the NASA DC-8, fly around in it, and take measurements. What Steve did was take ground-level data ... to look nationwide, not just at one fire or one plume, but every ground site from 2005 to 2014."

Predicting the relationship of ozone and wildfire smoke requires an understanding of nonlinear ozone chemistry, which is tricky. In the past, some individually analyzed smoke plumes have been linked to a dramatic production of ozone, Fischer said, but others have seen ozone production actually suppressed within wildfire smoke.

Whether and how much ozone is produced is influenced by many fleeting factors. To make ozone, you need volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxide and sunlight, interactions that can be determined by the amount of those chemicals in the air, how much sunlight is getting through the smoke, how hot the fire is burning, what is burning, and other variables. And smoke moves, disperses and becomes dilute over time. It's really hard to determine how all these factors work together to make, or not make, ozone.

Brey gathered data from 2005-2014 from the NOAA Hazard Mapping System, which uses satellites to visually track smoke plumes from areas of open burning. Armed with that data, Brey compared ozone levels on days when smoke was present with days when smoke wasn't present, and built an expected value of ozone levels for those days. Taken together, on the smoky days, ozone levels were higher.

That effect was marked around certain areas in particular: the Northeast corridor, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Birmingham, and Kansas City. "Which is not what you'd expect," Fischer said, because wildfires don't necessarily burn near cities. But the data indicate that as the smoke plumes travel, higher levels of ozone can be more often expected in urban than in rural areas.

That observation hints that wildfire smoke interacts with pollutants in urban air to create ozone. The data support the hypothesis, but a definitive claim can't be made yet.

With climate change predicted to increase overall temperatures and thus the intensity and frequency and wildfires, the study points to more questions about how smoke will affect ozone levels going forward.

Fischer and Brey will continue studying wildfire effects, in collaboration with other CSU researchers, with particular concern for human health effects.

Media Contact

Anne Ju Manning
anne.manning@colostate.edu
970-491-7099

 @ColoStateNews

http://www.colostate.edu 

Anne Ju Manning | EurekAlert!

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht 5000 tons of plastic released into the environment every year
12.07.2019 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

nachricht Climate impact of clouds made from airplane contrails may triple by 2050
27.06.2019 | European Geosciences Union

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: Artificial neural network resolves puzzles from condensed matter physics: Which is the perfect quantum theory?

For some phenomena in quantum many-body physics several competing theories exist. But which of them describes a quantum phenomenon best? A team of researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Harvard University in the United States has now successfully deployed artificial neural networks for image analysis of quantum systems.

Is that a dog or a cat? Such a classification is a prime example of machine learning: artificial neural networks can be trained to analyze images by looking...

Im Focus: Extremely hard yet metallically conductive: Bayreuth researchers develop novel material with high-tech prospects

An international research group led by scientists from the University of Bayreuth has produced a previously unknown material: Rhenium nitride pernitride. Thanks to combining properties that were previously considered incompatible, it looks set to become highly attractive for technological applications. Indeed, it is a super-hard metallic conductor that can withstand extremely high pressures like a diamond. A process now developed in Bayreuth opens up the possibility of producing rhenium nitride pernitride and other technologically interesting materials in sufficiently large quantity for their properties characterisation. The new findings are presented in "Nature Communications".

The possibility of finding a compound that was metallically conductive, super-hard, and ultra-incompressible was long considered unlikely in science. It was...

Im Focus: Modelling leads to the optimum size for platinum fuel cell catalysts: Activity of fuel cell catalysts doubled

An interdisciplinary research team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has built platinum nanoparticles for catalysis in fuel cells: The new size-optimized catalysts are twice as good as the best process commercially available today.

Fuel cells may well replace batteries as the power source for electric cars. They consume hydrogen, a gas which could be produced for example using surplus...

Im Focus: The secret of mushroom colors

Mushrooms: Darker fruiting bodies in cold climates

The fly agaric with its red hat is perhaps the most evocative of the diverse and variously colored mushroom species. Hitherto, the purpose of these colors was...

Im Focus: First results of the new Alphatrap experiment

Physicists at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg report the first result of the new Alphatrap experiment. They measured the bound-electron g-factor of highly charged (boron-like) argon ions with unprecedented precision of 9 digits. In comparison with a new highly accurate quantum electrodynamic calculation they found an excellent agreement on a level of 7 digits. This paves the way for sensitive tests of QED in strong fields like precision measurements of the fine structure constant α as well as the detection of possible signatures of new physics. [Physical Review Letters, 27 June 2019]

Quantum electrodynamics (QED) describes the interaction of charged particles with electromagnetic fields and is the most precisely tested physical theory. It...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on UV LED Technologies & Applications – ICULTA 2020 | Call for Abstracts

24.06.2019 | Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

A human liver cell atlas

15.07.2019 | Life Sciences

No more trial-and-error when choosing an electrolyte for metal-air batteries

15.07.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Possibilities of the biosimilar principle of learning are shown for a memristor-based neural network

15.07.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>