Study: Wildfire plumes in the Western US are reaching greater heights and injecting more aerosols aloft as wildfire activity intensifies (July 2022)

By producing a first-of-its-kind, decadal-scale wildfire plume rise climatology in the Western U.S. and Canada, we identify trends toward enhanced plume top heights, aerosol loading aloft, and near-surface smoke injection throughout the American West. Positive and significant plume trends suggest a growing impact of Western US wildfires on air quality at the local to continental scales and support the notion that wildfires may have an increasing impact on regional climate. Overlap of identified trends with regions of increasing wildfire emissions and burn severity suggests a link to climate driven trends toward enhanced wildfire activity. Further, time series of plume activity point to a possible acceleration of trends over recent years, such that the future impacts to air quality and regional climate may exceed those suggested by a linear fit to the multi-decadal data. These findings have significant implications for human health and exacerbate concern for the climate–wildfire connection.

(Co-authors: Taylor Y. Wilmot, Derek V. Mallia, A. Gannet Hallar & John C. Lin)

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