Peat Didn’t Start the Fire: The Effect of Wildfire Emissions on Public Health

Dismal2012DEVELOP Virtual Poster Session, Original

A map showing the spread of aerosols using HYSPLIT trajectories and NASA LaRC data.
A map showing the spread of aerosols using HYSPLIT trajectories and NASA LaRC data.

To better understand meteorology on the spread of aerosols, HYSPLIT back trajectories were used along with NASA LaRC’s HSR-LiDAR data from August 24. This provides more detailed information on the transport and concentration of particles at various elevations.

Team Location: NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
Authors: Taylor Beard, Christopher Newport University; Addie Chimel, Penn State University; Vivek Hebbar, Enlowe High School; Danielle Mallon, SUNY Albany; John Mayer, Ball State University; Justin Pokotylo, Colts Neck High School; Cheliene Rose, Thomas Nelson Community College; Justin Weiser, Christopher Newport University.
Advisors/Mentors: Dr. Richard Ferrare, NASA Langley Research Center; Dr. Kenton Ross, DEVELOP National Program, NASA Langley Research Center.
Other Acknowledgements: Kenneth Hall
Abstract: In August 2011, lightning strikes in the Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia sparked fires that smoldered until late November. The 2011 Lateral West fire was in large part blamed on a substantial drought in the region prior to that August. Because peat is a highly organic substrate that can be meters deep, peat fires are difficult to contain and are able to resurface at unexpected locations and times. The Lateral West fire raised concern for air quality when smoke from the fire reached as far north as Washington, D.C. This fire caused significant damage to an already threatened ecosystem and adversely affected air quality in the region, causing levels of PM2.5, PM10 and carbon monoxide to increase to harmful levels. CALIPSO, MODIS Aqua/Terra and NASA LaRC’s High Spectral Resolution LiDAR were used to determine the composition of aerosols, trace gases, and particulate matter introduced into the atmosphere from the smoke plumes. NOAA’s HYSPLIT trajectory models provided vertical and horizontal distribution of aerosol/particulate matter and the direction smoke plumes traveled during the time of the wildfires. By analyzing smoke plumes and air quality changes as a result of the Lateral West fire of 2011, future monitoring and prediction models using NASA EOS can be established and used by refuge management.

Summer VPS > Health and Air Quality