Forum für Wissenschaft, Industrie und Wirtschaft

Hauptsponsoren:     3M 
Datenbankrecherche:

 

Wildfires Cause Ozone Pollution to Violate Health Standards

13.10.2008
Wildfires can boost ozone pollution to levels that violate U.S. health standards, a new study concludes.

The research, by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), focused on California wildfires in 2007, finding that they repeatedly caused ground-level ozone to spike to unhealthy levels across a broad area, including much of rural California as well as neighboring Nevada.

The study was published today in Geophysical Research Letters. It was funded by NASA and by the National Science Foundation, which sponsors NCAR.

"It's important to understand the health impacts of wildfires," says NCAR scientist Gabriele Pfister, the lead author. "Ozone can hit unhealthy levels even in places where people don't see smoke."

Although scientists have long known that wildfires can affect air quality by emitting particles and gases into the air, there has been little research to quantify the impacts. Fires worsen ozone levels by releasing nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons, which can form ozone near the fire or far downwind as a result of chemical reactions in sunlight.

The researchers, using a combination of computer models and ground-level measurements, studied intense California wildfires that broke out in September and October of 2007. They found that ozone was three times more likely to violate safe levels when fire plumes blew into a region than when no plumes were present.

At the time of the wildfires, the public health standard for ozone set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was 0.08 parts per million over an eight-hour period. The EPA has since tightened the standard to 0.075 parts per million. Under the stricter standard, the number of violations would have nearly doubled.

While ozone in the stratosphere benefits life on Earth by blocking ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, ozone in the lower atmosphere can trigger a number of health problems. These range from coughing and throat irritation to more serious problems, such as aggravation of asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. Ground-level ozone pollution also damages crops and other plants.

"Wildfires are expected to worsen in the future, especially as our climate grows warmer," Pfister says. "But we are only now beginning to understand their potential impacts on people and ecosystems, not only nearby but also potentially far downwind."

Rural impacts

The unhealthy levels of ozone the researchers detected occurred mostly in rural areas. This finding may be a result of the computer modeling, which lacked the fine detail to zoom in on relatively compact urban areas. However, the authors also speculate that wildfire emissions have a greater impact on ozone levels in the countryside than on cities. The reason has to do with chemistry. Cities tend to have more nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant that can, at high levels, reduce the efficiency with which ozone is produced or even destroy ozone.

"The impact of wildfires on ozone in suburban and rural areas, far from urban sources of pollution, was quite noticeable," says NCAR scientist Christine Wiedinmyer, a co-author of the paper.

The paper notes that ozone levels would likely have been even greater except that Santa Ana winds in October blew wildfire plumes over the Pacific Ocean, safely away from populated areas.

Tracking the emissions

To measure the impact of the fires on ozone formation, the researchers turned to a pair of computer models developed at NCAR. With the first one, a specialized fire model, they estimated the amount of vegetation burned and resulting emissions of nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and other pollutants. Those results went into a global air chemistry model that simulated the movement of the emissions and evolving chemistry and tracked the resulting formation of ozone as the fire plumes spread downwind.

The scientists compared their modeling results with ozone measurements from a network of EPA ground stations at various sites in California. This enabled them to determine both the number of ozone violations and the extent to which the wildfires contributed to those violations. It also enabled them to verify the accuracy of the model.

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research under sponsorship by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Gabriele Pfister, NCAR Scientist
303-497-2915
pfister@ucar.edu

David Hosansky | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.ucar.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Earth Day: Disease spread among species is predictable
24.04.2015 | National Science Foundation

nachricht Warming climate may release vast amounts of carbon from long-frozen Arctic soils
24.04.2015 | University of Georgia

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Elektromobilität: Ultraleichtes Kraftpaket für das elektrische Fliegen

Siemens hat einen einzigartigen Elektromotor entwickelt, der hohe Leistung mit einem minimalen Gewicht kombiniert. Durch konsequente Optimierung aller Komponenten stellt der neue Antrieb in seiner Klasse einen Weltrekord beim Leistungsgewicht auf. Dadurch kommt der routinemäßige Einsatz von elektrisch angetriebenen Flugzeugen oder Helikoptern einen großen Schritt näher.

Manchmal lässt sich eine technische Revolution ganz knapp in einer einzigen Zahl zusammenfassen. In diesem Fall lautet sie: fünf Kilowatt pro Kilogramm – das...

Im Focus: Fast and Accurate 3-D Imaging Technique to Track Optically-Trapped Particles

KAIST researchers published an article on the development of a novel technique to precisely track the 3-D positions of optically-trapped particles having complicated geometry in high speed in the April 2015 issue of Optica.

Daejeon, Republic of Korea, April 23, 2015--Optical tweezers have been used as an invaluable tool for exerting micro-scale force on microscopic particles and...

Im Focus: Von Innen nach Außen: Rätsel der galaktischen Scheiben gelöst

Ein Team von Astronomen unter der Leitung von Ivan Minchev, Wissenschaftler am Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP), hat mithilfe hochmoderner theoretischer Modelle das Rätsel um die Entwicklung der Galaxienscheiben gelöst. Die jetzt veröffentlichte Studie zeigt, dass sich Sternpopulationen gleichen Alters durch Galaxienkollisionen nach außen hin ausweiten. Ähnlich wie die Blüten einer Rose reichern sich diese Populationen schichtweise in der Galaxie an und formen so allmählich die dicke Scheibe.

„Wir können nun zum ersten Mal zeigen, dass dicke Scheiben nicht nur aus alten Sterngenerationen bestehen, sondern – in einem größeren Abstand zum...

Im Focus: NOAA, Tulane identify second possible specimen of 'pocket shark' ever found

Pocket sharks are among the world's rarest finds

A very small and rare species of shark is swimming its way through scientific literature. But don't worry, the chances of this inches-long vertebrate biting...

Im Focus: Morbus Crohn: neuer Entstehungsmechanismus entschlüsselt

Bakteriengemeinschaften verursachen Darmentzündung

Morbus Crohn zählt zu den chronisch-entzündlichen Darmerkrankungen (CED). Bei der Krankheit spielt die genetische Veranlagung eine Rolle - und offenbar auch...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

IHR
JOB & KARRIERE
SERVICE
im innovations-report
in Kooperation mit academics
Veranstaltungen

Internationale Familienunternehmensforschung

24.04.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Internationaler Tag der Immunologie am 29. April 2015

24.04.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Wirtschaftsempfang 2015: WissensRÄUME

24.04.2015 | Veranstaltungen

 
B2B-VideoLinks
Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Simulation und virtuelle Welten: Virtueller Messerundgang mit dem Smartphone

24.04.2015 | Informationstechnologie

Elektromobilität: Ultraleichtes Kraftpaket für das elektrische Fliegen

24.04.2015 | Energie und Elektrotechnik

Siemens integriert Sitop-Stromversorgung in Prozessleitsystem Simatic PCS 7

24.04.2015 | Messenachrichten