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

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: FiberLab-Roboter begeistert auf Photonics West in San Francisco

Mit ihrem „humanisierten“ Roboter zeigten Anna Lena Baumann und Wolfgang Schade erstmalig die erfolgreiche Umsetzung der 3D-Navigation über eine neuartige Lasermethode, der Standard Single-Mode-Glasfaser. Mehr als 17.000 Teilnehmer konnten den Roboter und FiberLab, das erste Projekt des Photonik Inkubators in Göttingen, auf der Photonics West in San Francisco kennen lernen.

Mit Hilfe eines in die Kleidung eingenähten Fasersensors wurden Armbewegungen eines Probanden dokumentiert und nach entsprechender Auswertung an den Roboter...

Im Focus: Femto Photonic Production: Neue Verfahren mit Ultrakurzpulslasern für die Fertigung von morgen

Für die deutsche Wirtschaft spielt die Lasertechnik eine herausragende Rolle: Etwa 40 Prozent der weltweit verkauften Strahlquellen und 20 Prozent der Lasersysteme für die Materialbearbeitung stammen aus Deutschland.

Beim Einsatz von Lasern in der Produktion sind deutsche Unternehmen führend. Diese Stärken gilt es zu erhalten und auszubauen. Deswegen hat das...

Im Focus: Theorie der starken Wechselwirkung bestätigt: Supercomputer bestimmt Neutron-Proton-Massendifferenz

Nur weil das Neutron ein klein wenig schwerer ist als das Proton, haben Atomkerne genau die Eigenschaften, die unsere Welt und letztlich unsere Existenz ermöglichen.

80 Jahre nach der Entdeckung des Neutrons ist es einem Team aus Frankreich, Deutschland und Ungarn unter Führung des Wuppertaler Forschers Zoltán Fodor nun...

Im Focus: Neurochip für die Hirnforschung erfolgreich im Markt

Neues Mess- und Stimulationssystem nimmt die Kommunikation von Nervenzellen in Echtzeit auf und ermöglicht damit lang erhoffte Grundlagenforschung

Für die Enträtselung neurologischer und neurodegenerativer Erkrankungen wie Parkinson, Alzheimer, Depression oder verschiedene Erblindungsformen verspricht ein...

Im Focus: Klassisch oder nicht? Physik der Nanoplasmen

Die Wechselwirkung von intensiven Laserpulsen mit Partikeln auf einer Nanometer-Skala resultiert in der Erzeugung eines expandierenden Nanoplasmas.

In der Vergangenheit wurde die Dynamik eines Nanoplasmas typischerweise durch klassische Phänomene wie die thermische Emission von Elektronen beschrieben. Im...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

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

THETIS - Branchentreff für Meeresenergien

27.03.2015 | Veranstaltungen

1. HAMMER BIOENERGIETAGE

27.03.2015 | Veranstaltungen

Technologietag bei der SCHOTT AG - Neue Strukturierungstechnologien für Dünngläser

26.03.2015 | Veranstaltungen

 
B2B-VideoLinks
Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Motormanagement-System kommuniziert per Modbus

27.03.2015 | HANNOVER MESSE

Ein Elektron auf Tauchgang

27.03.2015 | Physik Astronomie

Material für dichtere Magnetspeicher

27.03.2015 | Materialwissenschaften