Investigation of the Effects of Changing Climate on Fires and the Consequences for U.S. Air Quality, Using a Hierarchy of Chemistry and Climate Models

EPA Grant Number: R832275
Title: Investigation of the Effects of Changing Climate on Fires and the Consequences for U.S. Air Quality, Using a Hierarchy of Chemistry and Climate Models
Investigators: Logan, Jennifer A. , Byun, Daewon , Diner, David , Jacob, Daniel J. , Li, Qinbin , Mazzoni, Dominic M. , Mickley, Loretta J.
Institution: Harvard University , Jet Propulsion Laboratory - Pasadena , University of Houston
EPA Project Officer: Chung, Serena
Project Period: April 1, 2005 through March 31, 2008 (Extended to March 31, 2010)
Project Amount: $750,000
RFA: Fire, Climate, and Air Quality (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Air Quality and Air Toxics , Global Climate Change , Climate Change , Air


This study will provide an integrated assessment of the effects of fires in a future climate on ozone and particulate matter (PM) air quality in the United States, allowing also for changes in anthropogenic and biogenic emissions. It will explore the relationship between climate and the frequency and magnitude of fires, and develop scenarios for future areas burned in the United States. It will also develop climatology for plume heights from forest fires since 2000, and relate plume height to area burned for use in the climate change scenarios. To lay the foundation for investigation of the effects of future fires, this study will quantify the effects of present day fires on air quality in the United States. This study will complement on-going investigations of the effects of changes in fossil-fuel related emissions on air quality in a future climate, and studies of the effects of climate change on fire danger.


We will use linear stepwise regression to determine the best predictors for area burned for different ecosystems, including temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, precipitation, and components of the Fire Weather Index (FWI) system, or of the Fire Weather Danger Rating System (NFSRS). This analysis will rely on an existing 20-year database for area burned in the western U.S. that we will extend to the eastern U.S. We will use area burned prediction schemes that we develop, and those already developed by others, in simulations with the NASA/GISS general circulation model (GCM) to derive area burned for 2000-2050. We will derive plume heights from fires in North America from products of the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR), and relate these to the areas of fires. These plume heights will be used in a study of the effect of present day fires on ozone and PM using the global aerosol-chemistry model, GEOS-CHEM, and CMAQ. We will also conduct GCM simulations with generic tracers of wildfire pollution and the IPCC A1 and B1 future scenarios. With these simulations, we will separate the effect of climate change from that of interannual variability of the weather, which is also affected by climate change. Coupled ozone-PM simulations for the present day and future climates using the GEOS-CHEM model driven by meteorological and area burned statistics from the GCM will then allow our first assessment of the effects of future fires on air quality. Finally, CMAQ simulations of selected future years will be used for more accurate prediction of the effects of future fires on U.S. air quality. CMAQ will use initial and dynamic boundary conditions from the GISS and GEOS-CHEM simulations.

Expected Results:

The project will provide a first-ever assessment of the effects of fires in a future climate on air quality over the entire United States. Existing studies show that fires in North America can have a significant effect on visibility and air quality in the United States on an episodic basis. We will provide an assessment of the effects of fires in recent years on U.S. air quality. We will determine the uncertainties involved in making predictions of emissions from future fires, and the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to predicting area burned. We will provide comparisons of the effects of future fires on air quality with the effect of future anthropogenic emissions.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 14 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 5 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

biomass burning, tropospheric ozone, tropospheric aerosol, visibility, climate models, air pollution, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, Environmental Chemistry, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Monitoring/Modeling, Aquatic Ecosystem, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Atmosphere, anthropogenic stress, environmental measurement, meteorology, climatic influence, global ciruclation model, tidal marsh, ozone depletion, socioeconomics, climate models, ecosystem indicators, aquatic ecosystems, environmental stress, coastal ecosystems, global climate models, ecological models, climate model, ecosystem stress, sea level rise, forest resources, Global Climate Change, atmospheric chemistry, climate variability

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2005 Progress Report
  • 2006 Progress Report
  • 2007 Progress Report
  • 2008 Progress Report
  • Final Report