Measuring small particulates in and near wildland fires

Tara Strand, Narasimhan Larkin, Miriam Rori, Candace Krull, and Mark Moore, PM2.5 measurements in wildfire smoke plumes from fire seasons 2005–2008 in the Northwestern United States, Journal of Aerosol Science, doi:10.1016/j.jaerosci.2010.09.001

Although smoke from wildfires can have a major impact on air quality, the irregular nature of wildfire events has made it difficult to obtain robust data on the concentrations of small particulates (PM2.5) close to ground level in and near wildfires. For this study, PM2.5 concentration monitors were deployed at five to nine sites for periods of 13 to 77 days during each of four consecutive wildfire seasons across parts of the northwest United States. In each study period, PM2.5 concentrations varied widely—from values exceeding U.S. air-quality thresholds to near-normal values—with the concentrations typically peaking in mid-morning and bottoming out in mid-afternoon. Fire managers, public health officials, and some citizens made use of the data in real time. 

PACIFIC WILDLAND FIRE SCIENCES LABORATORY • NORTHWEST WEATHER AND AVALANCE CENTER