Team Location: Langley Research Center
Authors: Kenneth Hall, Myles Boyd, Jeremy Carpenter
Science Advisors/Mentors: Dr. Kenton Ross, Dr. Richard Ferrare
Past Authors/Contributors: Taylor Beard, Ande Ehlen
Abstract: Since the beginning of fire season in November 2010 the state of Texas experienced several periods of severe wildfires that burned over 4 million acres of land (Texas Forest Service). More than 27,000 separate fires have caused the death of 10 individuals and destroyed approximately 7,000 structures, greatly affecting the livelihoods of many Texans (Texas Forest Service). The cause of this disaster can be attributed to the excessive heat and drought brought on by La NiÌ±a conditions and exacerbated by the strong winds from Tropical Storm Lee. These fires caused significant damage to the regionÛ÷s ecosystems while also adversely affecting the air quality, causing levels of PM2.5, Carbon monoxide, and Ozone to increase to unhealthy levels (Smog Blog). NASA Earth Observing Systems such as CALIPSO, MISR and MODIS on Terra/Aqua, and OMI on Aura were used to map the extent to which aerosols and harmful particulate matter were in the atmosphere. These sensors were also used in conjunction with HYSPLIT trajectory models to assess the air quality in the region by providing vertical and horizontal distribution models of aerosols/particulate matter and the direction smoke plumes traveled during the time of the wildfires. The tracking of these smoke plumes through metropolitan areas allowed for the gathering of air quality monitoring data from ground sensors in those areas in an effort to show the impact wildfire emissions have on air quality. The timely tracking of smoke plumes and the ability to understand their composition assisted in the creation of a public health risk map. Ultimately, the project provided the EPA Region 6 with a valuable case study relating to the Exceptional Events Rule and areas of nonattainment as a result of the Texas Wildfires.
Video transcript available here.