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 Colorado River's connection with the ocean was a punctuated affair
16.11.2017 | University of Oregon

nachricht Researchers create largest, longest multiphysics earthquake simulation to date
14.11.2017 | Gauss Centre for Supercomputing

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Ultrakalte chemische Prozesse: Physikern gelingt beispiellose Vermessung auf Quantenniveau

Wissenschaftler um den Ulmer Physikprofessor Johannes Hecker Denschlag haben chemische Prozesse mit einer beispiellosen Auflösung auf Quantenniveau vermessen. Bei ihrer wissenschaftlichen Arbeit kombinierten die Forscher Theorie und Experiment und können so erstmals die Produktzustandsverteilung über alle Quantenzustände hinweg - unmittelbar nach der Molekülbildung - nachvollziehen. Die Forscher haben ihre Erkenntnisse in der renommierten Fachzeitschrift "Science" publiziert. Durch die Ergebnisse wird ein tieferes Verständnis zunehmend komplexer chemischer Reaktionen möglich, das zukünftig genutzt werden kann, um Reaktionsprozesse auf Quantenniveau zu steuern.

Einer deutsch-amerikanischen Forschergruppe ist es gelungen, chemische Prozesse mit einer nie dagewesenen Auflösung auf Quantenniveau zu vermessen. Dadurch...

Im Focus: Leoniden 2017: Sternschnuppen im Anflug?

Gemeinsame Pressemitteilung der Vereinigung der Sternfreunde und des Hauses der Astronomie in Heidelberg

Die Sternschnuppen der Leoniden sind in diesem Jahr gut zu beobachten, da kein Mondlicht stört. Experten sagen für die Nächte vom 16. auf den 17. und vom 17....

Im Focus: «Kosmische Schlange» lässt die Struktur von fernen Galaxien erkennen

Die Entstehung von Sternen in fernen Galaxien ist noch weitgehend unerforscht. Astronomen der Universität Genf konnten nun erstmals ein sechs Milliarden Lichtjahre entferntes Sternensystem genauer beobachten – und damit frühere Simulationen der Universität Zürich stützen. Ein spezieller Effekt ermöglicht mehrfach reflektierte Bilder, die sich wie eine Schlange durch den Kosmos ziehen.

Heute wissen Astronomen ziemlich genau, wie sich Sterne in der jüngsten kosmischen Vergangenheit gebildet haben. Aber gelten diese Gesetzmässigkeiten auch für...

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Pflanzenvielfalt von Wäldern aus der Luft abbilden

Produktivität und Stabilität von Waldökosystemen hängen stark von der funktionalen Vielfalt der Pflanzengemeinschaften ab. UZH-Forschenden gelang es, die Pflanzenvielfalt von Wäldern durch Fernerkundung mit Flugzeugen in verschiedenen Massstäben zu messen und zu kartieren – von einzelnen Bäumen bis hin zu ganzen Artengemeinschaften. Die neue Methode ebnet den Weg, um zukünftig die globale Pflanzendiversität aus der Luft und aus dem All zu überwachen.

Ökologische Studien zeigen, dass die Pflanzenvielfalt zentral ist für das Funktionieren von Ökosys-temen. Wälder mit einer höheren funktionalen Vielfalt –...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

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

Technologievorsprung durch Textiltechnik

17.11.2017 | Veranstaltungen

Roboter für ein gesundes Altern: „European Robotics Week 2017“ an der Frankfurt UAS

17.11.2017 | Veranstaltungen

Börse für Zukunftstechnologien – Leichtbautag Stade bringt Unternehmen branchenübergreifend zusammen

17.11.2017 | Veranstaltungen

 
VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Technologievorsprung durch Textiltechnik

17.11.2017 | Veranstaltungsnachrichten

IHP präsentiert sich auf der productronica 2017

17.11.2017 | Messenachrichten

Roboter schafft den Salto rückwärts

17.11.2017 | Innovative Produkte