The Project

The following facts set the stage for investigating fire’s contribution to ambient ozone levels throughout the U.S.:

  1. a more stringent (range of 0.060 – 0.070 parts per million (ppm)) Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) is expected to be promulgated by EPA by 2016;
  2. monitoring data for many existing and new (e.g., southwest, rural, Class I areas) locations around the U.S. show ambient levels of ozone at or above the new standard, and many of these areas are expected to be designated as Non-Attainment Areas (NAAs) for the new standard;
  3. the new NAAQS may extend the typical ozone non-attainment season into spring and fall months and overlap more with the typical prescribed burning season in wildlands; and
  4. emissions from fire will be addressed in many ways in the air quality planning for these Ozone NAAs (accounting for “exceptional events” and establishing background levels of ozone as potential sources of emissions reduction).

The deliverables of DEASCO3 were designed to support Federal Land Managers (FLMs) in meeting the challenges of addressing fire’s contribution to ozone in several ways: 1) technical methods routinely accepted for use in air quality planning (including SIPs) were used; 2) the range of fire’s contribution to ozone levels throughout the U.S. was quantified; and 3) technical products support FLMs to represent their interests with regard to NAA designation, “exceptional event” identification, background level definition, and fire emissions reduction strategy evaluation.

Grounding the technical products produced were a series of technical and policy hypotheses the team sought to address.

Technical Hypotheses
Hypothesis 1 – Mature and well-mixed smoke emissions from wildland fire do not titrate ambient ozone, but do contribute to increased downwind formation of ambient ozone and, therefore, elevate background concentrations of ozone across a large geographic area of the U.S.
Hypothesis 2 – A number of wildland fire variables assessed and managed by operational fire managers in planning and executing individual fires (e.g., fuel loading, fire size, timing and length of fires) affect formation of ozone.
Hypothesis 3 – Cumulative emissions from groupings of proximate and coincident managed wildland fires over multi-day periods cause or contribute to exceedances of the level of the new primary ozone NAAQS.

Policy Hypotheses
Hypothesis 4 – Improved quantitative information about fire emissions’ contribution to ambient ozone levels will allow fire managers to demonstrate the change in air quality resulting from smoke management programs (e.g., individual fire management methods, cumulative fires, emissions reduction techniques), and more effectively participate in air quality planning efforts to address ozone nonattainment areas.
Hypothesis 5 – Improved quantitative information will increase FLMs’ understanding of spatial and temporal variation in fire emissions’ contribution to elevated ambient ozone events and accommodate more effective and timely involvement of FLMs in air quality planning processes.

Key Findings

The project's key findings are being formalized as we develop the final report. Please check back soon!