Category Archives: Wildfires

Low-cost filtration method improves air quality during smoke events—see the new paper

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A new paper by group members Dr. Nate May, Clara Dixon, and Dr. Dan Jaffe evaluates the effectiveness of low-cost air filter units during wildfire smoke events. The increased wildland fire activity in the western US in recent years produces high concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which negatively affects the health of millions of people. During wildfire smoke events, staying indoors is often recommended. However, how good is indoor air quality during smoke events? The authors looked at PM2.5 measurements from the PurpleAir sensor network, a publicly available network of low-cost air quality sensors located indoors and outdoors. They also analyzed the effectiveness of residential filter units in reducing indoor PM2.5. One low-cost DIY filtration method consists of attaching a Minimum Efficiency Rating Value-13 (MERV-13) fan filter to a standard box fan. This method was found to be highly effective at reducing indoor PM2.5 when recirculating air in a single room.

Read the full paper in Aerosol and Air Quality Research

See the video on how to make your own air purifier at home

A new age of wildfires

wildire in Pacific Northwest

Credit: Mark Stone/University of Washington.

A new article on the University of Washington website looks at the growing severity of wildfires and the broad research that the university is doing on their impacts. The article highlights the work that we do on wildfires’ effects on air quality. Also featured is the Joel Thornton lab at UW Seattle and the work of other UW researchers who study wildfires and forests.

Faculty and students install instruments at Mt. Bachelor Observatory.

Claire Buysse and Dan Jaffe set up radiometers to measure UV light on the top of Mt. Bachelor Observatory, August 2019. Credit: Mark Stone/University of Washington.

In the summer of 2019, UW photographer Mark Stone visited Mt. Bachelor Observatory, as well as other research sites, and captured the UW’s research in stunning photographs.

Read the article.

Mt. Bachelor Observatory

Mt. Bachelor Observatory research site at the top of Mt. Bachelor, Bend, Oregon, August 2019. Credit: Mark Stone/University of Washington.

The “smoke apocalypse” and indoor air quality: Media reports with Dan Jaffe

In September, Seattle and the Puget Sound region recorded the worst air quality ever. For example, in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle it was 314 on the air quality index on September 17. During our area’s recent smoke apocalypse, Dr. Dan Jaffe has been a frequent media guest. He has been interviewed by the Seattle Times, Crosscut, KIRO7, KOMONews, KOMOAM, KING5, and Q13Fox. Dan discussed his work on indoor air quality during the wildfire season and showed how to make a very effective DIY air purifier using a box fan and a MERV 13 furnace filter.

See links to all of the articles and videos along with descriptions

Videos highlight research

Check out our new Videos page! There you’ll find videos that showcase the group’s research over the years. The page includes videos on airborne research in 2001 to current air quality research at Mt. Bachelor Observatory in Bend, Oregon.

Undergraduate researcher Shahbaz Qureshi recorded two videos about the group’s research in the summer of 2019. One shows the Jaffe team working at Mt. Bachelor Observatory, where they are setting up and maintaining research equipment. The second video focuses on a research trip to Boise, Idaho. During the summer of 2019, we measured volatile organic carbons, NOx, and other compounds at a site near Boise in order to understand the impact of forest fire emissions on the tropospheric photochemistry of ozone and aerosols at downwind sites. Qureshi has been conducting research with the Jaffe Group for the last year and graduated from the University of Washington Bothell in June 2020.

VIDEO: Jaffe team research trip to Boise, ID, Aug. 2019

VIDEO: Jaffe team working at Mt. Bachelor Observatory, Bend, OR, Sept. 2019

New critical review of wildland fire impacts on air quality

Dr. Dan Jaffe is the lead author on a critical review that examines the processes that influence wildfires and prescribed fires and their effects on air quality in the U.S. This review, “Wildfire and prescribed burning impacts on air quality in the United States,” is published in the June issue of the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association. This paper is the result of a collaboration between Dan Jaffe and Susan O’Neill, Narasimhan Larkin, Amara Holder, David Peterson, Jessica Halofsky, and Ana Rappold. These coauthors have brought their range of expertise to the issues related to wildland fires and have examined each of the processes influencing these fires and also the effects of the fires, “including the natural role of wildland fire, forest management, ignitions, emissions, transport, chemistry, and human health impacts.”

Large wildfires in the U.S. are becoming more common, and their emissions of particulate matter (PM) and gaseous compounds negatively impact air quality and human health. The air quality trend in the U.S. has been improving in the last decades. However, seasonal wildfires threaten to undermine this progress in parts of the country. The area burned by wildland fires has grown significantly in the last few decades due to “past forest management practices, climate change, and other human factors.” This has resulted in millions of people experiencing high levels of air pollution. As cities and towns have spread further into wildlands, costs for fire suppression (to protect human developments) and the consequences of fires have increased significantly.

U.S. wildire area burned and federal suppression costs for 1985-2018

Total U.S. wildfire area burned (ha) and federal suppression costs for 1985–2018 scaled to constant (2016) U.S. dollars. Trends for both wildfire area burned and suppression indicate about a four-fold increase over a 30-year period. Data source: National Interagency Fire Center, Fire Information Statistics, accessed December 2, 2019. https://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/fireInfo_statistics.html.

In this review, Dr. Jaffe and his coauthors describe the current state of the research and identify key data gaps. Their goal is to identify areas that are well understood and areas that need more research. They recommend eight specific areas for future research.

Read the paper here

Free paper eprints available here