Dynamic Management of Prescribed Burning for Better Air Quality

EPA Grant Number: R835217
Title: Dynamic Management of Prescribed Burning for Better Air Quality
Investigators: Odman, Mehmet Talat , Chang, Michael E. , Hu, Yongtao , Tian, Di , Wilt, Kenneth
Current Investigators: Odman, Mehmet Talat , Chang, Michael E. , Hu, Yongtao , Tian, Di
Institution: Duke University , Georgia Environmental Protection Division
EPA Project Officer: Chung, Serena
Project Period: June 1, 2012 through May 31, 2015 (Extended to February 28, 2017)
Project Amount: $500,000
RFA: Dynamic Air Quality Management (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Air Quality and Air Toxics , Air


Prescribed burning (PB) is an important element of land management in the Southeastern U.S. but also a threat to air quality. In the past, burns have led to severe air pollution episodes. However, if rigid restrictions are imposed on PB because of air quality concerns, the risk of catastrophic wildfires may increase. Forecast-based dynamic management can both reduce the air quality risks and maximize the amount of lands treated by PB as go/no-go decisions can be made on relatively short notice. The objectives of this project are to:

  • Develop a PB impact prediction system that can be used in forecasting mode using existing forecasting systems, available observational data, and recently developed modeling tools
  • Evaluate the forecasting accuracy of the system under PB influence on air quality
  • Integrate this system into PB management and investigate dynamic management options
  • Assess the benefits of dynamic PB management

The central hypotheses to be tested in achieving these objectives include: (1) Air quality forecasts are accurate enough to be used in dynamic air quality management, (2) Existing observational data, models, and tools can be used for forecasting the impacts of specific sources such as PB, (3) PB is amenable to dynamic management, (4) The number of poor air quality episodes can be reduced by dynamic management of PB, and (5) PB capacity can be increased without adversely affecting air quality.


In collaboration with the Georgia Forestry Commission and Georgia Environmental Protection Division we will design a new PB permitting process that takes advantage of air quality forecasts. The goal is to manage permits after considering the cumulative impact of all potential burns on regional air quality. A model-based, high-resolution air quality forecasting system and forward sensitivities computed by the Decoupled Direct Method will be employed to predict the potential air quality impacts of PB emissions. Since the locations of the burns are now known a priory, query of a dynamic database and heuristics will be used to estimate which land owners/managers are likely to request PB permits on a given day. Predictions will be evaluated through case studies of incidences when PB impacts are detected by the statewide air quality monitoring network. Impact forecasts will be utilized to manage PB emissions through the permitting process. While permits may have to be denied or acreages restricted for best air quality outcomes on some days, burns may be encouraged on other days when there are no imminent concerns. The effects of the new permitting process will be assessed through simulations with the new prediction system.

Expected Results:

The proposed study will advance the state of knowledge on dynamic management of PB and its air quality impacts. Forecasting tools and management options resulting from this research will also be instrumental for dynamic management of other types of emission sources in Georgia and the rest of the nation.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 15 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 4 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Silviculture, forest fuels, forecasting, forward sensitivity, simulation

Progress and Final Reports:

2012 Progress Report
2013 Progress Report
2014 Progress Report
2015 Progress Report