Particulate air pollution from wildfires in the Western US under climate change
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Jia Coco Liu; Loretta J. Mickley; Melissa P. Sulprizio; Francesca Dominici; Xu Yue; Keita Ebisu; Georgiana Brooke Anderson; Rafi F. A. Khan; Mercedes A. Bravo; Michelle L. Bell
Publication Year: 2016

Cataloging Information

  • air quality
  • Area
  • climate change
  • fine particles
  • fire management
  • forest fires
  • Great Plains
  • health
  • Impact
  • management
  • mortality
  • Oregon
  • particulates
  • perspective
  • pollution
  • quality
  • smoke effects
  • smoke management
  • wildfires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: February 24, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 55205
Tall Timbers Record Number: 33153
TTRS Location Status: Not in file
TTRS Call Number: Available
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use, Okay

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


Wildfire can impose a direct impact on human health under climate change. While the potential impacts of climate change on wildfires and resulting air pollution have been studied, it is not known who will be most affected by the growing threat of wildfires. Identifying communities that will be most affected will inform development of fire management strategies and disaster preparedness programs. We estimate levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) directly attributable to wildfires in 561 western US counties during fire seasons for the present-day (2004-2009) and future (2046-2051), using a fire prediction model and GEOS-Chem, a 3-D global chemical transport model. Future estimates are obtained under a scenario of moderately increasing greenhouse gases by mid-century. We create a new term 'Smoke Wave,' defined as ³2 consecutive days with high wildfire-specific PM2.5, to describe episodes of high air pollution from wildfires. We develop an interactive map to demonstrate the counties likely to suffer from future high wildfire pollution events. For 2004-2009, on days exceeding regulatory PM2.5 standards, wildfires contributed an average of 71.3 % of total PM2.5. Under future climate change, we estimate that more than 82 million individuals will experience a 57 % and 31 % increase in the frequency and intensity, respectively, of Smoke Waves. Northern California, Western Oregon and the Great Plains are likely to suffer the highest exposure to widlfire smoke in the future. Results point to the potential health impacts of increasing wildfire activity on large numbers of people in a warming climate and the need to establish or modify US wildfire management and evacuation programs in high-risk regions. The study also adds to the growing literature arguing that extreme events in a changing climate could have significant consequences for human health. © Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016.

Online Link(s):
Liu, J. C. et al. 2016. Particulate air pollution from wildfires in the Western US under climate change. Climatic Change, v. 138, no. 3-4, p. 655-666. 10.1007/s10584-016-1762-6.