The smoke from wildfires is a major concern for western parts of the United States of America. Late summers and fall show high risk of wildfires. In addition to the damage to the flora and fauna, human communities from the fires, the smoke can also be dangerous in many ways. Cities like Denver, Colorado have issued numerous air quality advisory notices throughout last couple of months. While wildfires are geographically limited by nearby fuel sources like the dried up accumulated biomass, wildfire smoke travels fast with the wind. Carried on eastward-flowing air currents, dangerous particulate matter from wildfires is increasingly seeping into the cities across the US during this time period. This microscopic particles can penetrate deep into a person’s lung and eyes causing health issues where children are at high risk since they spend more time outdoors in summers. Aggravated chronic heart and lung diseases and even death is possible due to inhalation of smoke. We have also witnessed this in heavy smog in south asia during the winter.
The situation is much worse across the westernmost states, California, Oregon, and Washington. Therefore, there is a need for better modelling, monitoring, and warning systems to in place to ensure the safety of the communities. Detailed forecasts can help not only the communities but also transportation systems. The “HRRR(High-Resolution Rapid Refresh)-Smoke” model is a major advancement in predicting the direction and height of wildfire smoke plumes. It is an experimental study by NOAA. The model simulates the emissions and transport of smoke from wildfires to help NOAA NWS forecast offices provide core partners and the public information about the severity and movement of wildfire smoke. Furthermore, NOAA-20 satellite has the ability to transmit data such that researchers can pinpoint the locations and the intensity of the wildfire. This data also feeds into the HRRR model to enable improved predictions.
This information has been helping entities like the National Park Services, Amtrak to make better decisions about the possible dangers and convey them to the public in a timely manner. This work has also helped scientists to conclusively connect wildfire smoke with specific health outcomes which was difficult in the past due to incomplete data. We look forward to bring more research findings of these studies in the future.