skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on January 7, 2023

Title: Increasing co-occurrence of fine particulate matter and ground-level ozone extremes in the western United States
Wildfires and meteorological conditions influence the co-occurrence of multiple harmful air pollutants including fine particulate matter (PM 2.5 ) and ground-level ozone. We examine the spatiotemporal characteristics of PM 2.5 /ozone co-occurrences and associated population exposure in the western United States (US). The frequency, spatial extent, and temporal persistence of extreme PM 2.5 /ozone co-occurrences have increased significantly between 2001 and 2020, increasing annual population exposure to multiple harmful air pollutants by ~25 million person-days/year. Using a clustering methodology to characterize daily weather patterns, we identify significant increases in atmospheric ridging patterns conducive to widespread PM 2.5 /ozone co-occurrences and population exposure. We further link the spatial extent of co-occurrence to the extent of extreme heat and wildfires. Our results suggest an increasing potential for co-occurring air pollution episodes in the western US with continued climate change.
; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Science Advances
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Recent dramatic and deadly increases in global wildfire activity have increased attention on the causes of wildfires, their consequences, and how risk from wildfire might be mitigated. Here we bring together data on the changing risk and societal burden of wildfire in the United States. We estimate that nearly 50 million homes are currently in the wildland–urban interface in the United States, a number increasing by 1 million houses every 3 y. To illustrate how changes in wildfire activity might affect air pollution and related health outcomes, and how these linkages might guide future science and policy, we develop a statistical model that relates satellite-based fire and smoke data to information from pollution monitoring stations. Using the model, we estimate that wildfires have accounted for up to 25% of PM 2.5 (particulate matter with diameter <2.5 μm) in recent years across the United States, and up to half in some Western regions, with spatial patterns in ambient smoke exposure that do not follow traditional socioeconomic pollution exposure gradients. We combine the model with stylized scenarios to show that fuel management interventions could have large health benefits and that future health impacts from climate-change–induced wildfire smoke could approach projected overall increasesmore »in temperature-related mortality from climate change—but that both estimates remain uncertain. We use model results to highlight important areas for future research and to draw lessons for policy.« less
  2. The manuscript assesses the current and expected future global drivers of Southern Ocean (SO) ecosystems. Atmospheric ozone depletion over the Antarctic since the 1970s, has been a key driver, resulting in springtime cooling of the stratosphere and intensification of the polar vortex, increasing the frequency of positive phases of the Southern Annular Mode (SAM). This increases warm air-flow over the East Pacific sector (Western Antarctic Peninsula) and cold air flow over the West Pacific sector. SAM as well as El Niño Southern Oscillation events also affect the Amundsen Sea Low leading to either positive or negative sea ice anomalies in the west and east Pacific sectors, respectively. The strengthening of westerly winds is also linked to shoaling of deep warmer water onto the continental shelves, particularly in the East Pacific and Atlantic sectors. Air and ocean warming has led to changes in the cryosphere, with glacial and ice sheet melting in both sectors, opening up new ice free areas to biological productivity, but increasing seafloor disturbance by icebergs. The increased melting is correlated with a salinity decrease particularly in the surface 100 m. Such processes could increase the availability of iron, which is currently limiting primary production over much ofmore »the SO. Increasing CO 2 is one of the most important SO anthropogenic drivers and is likely to affect marine ecosystems in the coming decades. While levels of many pollutants are lower than elsewhere, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and plastics have been detected in the SO, with concentrations likely enhanced by migratory species. With increased marine traffic and weakening of ocean barriers the risk of the establishment of non-indigenous species is increased. The continued recovery of the ozone hole creates uncertainty over the reversal in sea ice trends, especially in the light of the abrupt transition from record high to record low Antarctic sea ice extent since spring 2016. The current rate of change in physical and anthropogenic drivers is certain to impact the Marine Ecosystem Assessment of the Southern Ocean (MEASO) region in the near future and will have a wide range of impacts across the marine ecosystem.« less
  3. Abstract

    Previous research on the health and air quality impacts of wildfire smoke has largely focused on the impact of smoke on outdoor air quality; however, many people spend a majority of their time indoors. The quality of indoor air on smoke-impacted days is largely unknown. In this analysis, we use publicly available data from an existing large network of low-cost indoor and outdoor fine particulate matter (PM2.5) monitors to quantify the relationship between indoor and outdoor particulate air quality on smoke-impacted days in 2020 across the western United States (US). We also investigate possible regional and socioeconomic trends in this relationship for regions surrounding six major cities in the western US. We find indoor PM2.5concentrations are 82% or 4.2µg m−3(median across all western US indoor monitors for the year 2020; interquartile range, IQR: 2.0–7.2µg m−3) higher on smoke-impacted days compared to smoke-free days. Indoor/outdoor PM2.5ratios show variability by region, particularly on smoke-free days. However, we find the ratio of indoor/outdoor PM2.5is less than 1 (i.e. indoor concentrations lower than outdoor) at nearly all indoor-outdoor monitor pairs on smoke-impacted days. Although typically lower than outdoor concentrations on smoke-impacted days, we find that on heavily smoke-impacted days (outdoor PM2.5> 55µg m−3),more »indoor PM2.5concentrations can exceed the 35µg m−324 h outdoor standard set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Further, total daily-mean indoor PM2.5concentrations increase by 2.1µg m−3with every 10µg m−3increase in daily-mean outdoor PM2.5.(median of statistically significant linear regression slopes across all western US monitor pairs; IQR: 1.0–4.3µg m−3) on smoke-impacted days. These results show that for indoor environments in the western US included in our analysis, remaining indoors during smoke events is currently an effective, but limited, strategy to reduce PM2.5exposure.

    « less
  4. Abstract

    Global economic development and urbanization during the past two decades have driven the increases in demand of personal and commercial vehicle fleets, especially in developing countries, which has likely resulted in changes in year-to-year vehicle tailpipe emissions associated with aerosols and trace gases. However, long-term trends of impacts of global gasoline and diesel emissions on air quality and human health are not clear. In this study, we employ the Community Earth System Model in conjunction with the newly developed Community Emissions Data System as anthropogenic emission inventory to quantify the long-term trends of impacts of global gasoline and diesel emissions on ambient air quality and human health for the period of 2000–2015. Global gasoline and diesel emissions contributed to regional increases in annual mean surface PM2.5(particulate matter with aerodynamic diameters ⩽2.5μm) concentrations by up to 17.5 and 13.7µg m−3, and surface ozone (O3) concentrations by up to 7.1 and 7.2 ppbv, respectively, for 2000–2015. However, we also found substantial declines of surface PM2.5and O3concentrations over Europe, the US, Canada, and China for the same period, which suggested the co-benefits of air quality and human health from improving gasoline and diesel fuel quality and tightening vehicle emissions standards. Globally, wemore »estimate the mean annual total PM2.5- and O3-induced premature deaths are 139 700–170 700 for gasoline and 205 200–309 300 for diesel, with the corresponding years of life lost of 2.74–3.47 and 4.56–6.52 million years, respectively. Diesel and gasoline emissions create health-effect disparities between the developed and developing countries, which are likely to aggravate afterwards.

    « less
  5. Abstract Purpose of Review Increasing wildfire size and severity across the western United States has created an environmental and social crisis that must be approached from a transdisciplinary perspective. Climate change and more than a century of fire exclusion and wildfire suppression have led to contemporary wildfires with more severe environmental impacts and human smoke exposure. Wildfires increase smoke exposure for broad swaths of the US population, though outdoor workers and socially disadvantaged groups with limited adaptive capacity can be disproportionally exposed. Exposure to wildfire smoke is associated with a range of health impacts in children and adults, including exacerbation of existing respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, worse birth outcomes, and cardiovascular events. Seasonally dry forests in Washington, Oregon, and California can benefit from ecological restoration as a way to adapt forests to climate change and reduce smoke impacts on affected communities. Recent Findings Each wildfire season, large smoke events, and their adverse impacts on human health receive considerable attention from both the public and policymakers. The severity of recent wildfire seasons has state and federal governments outlining budgets and prioritizing policies to combat the worsening crisis. This surging attention provides an opportunity to outlinemore »the actions needed now to advance research and practice on conservation, economic, environmental justice, and public health interests, as well as the trade-offs that must be considered. Summary Scientists, planners, foresters and fire managers, fire safety, air quality, and public health practitioners must collaboratively work together. This article is the result of a series of transdisciplinary conversations to find common ground and subsequently provide a holistic view of how forest and fire management intersect with human health through the impacts of smoke and articulate the need for an integrated approach to both planning and practice.« less