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Project ID: 11-1-7-4

Year: 2011

Date Started: 10/01/2011

Ending Date:  02/28/2015

Title: Future Mega-Fires and Smoke Impacts

Project Proposal Abstract: Mega-fire events, in which large high-intensity fires propagate over extended periods, can cause both immense damage to the local environment and catastrophic air quality impacts to cities and towns downwind. The extensive 2010 fires in western Russia are only the most recent example of mega-fire's potential to impact air quality as widespread and prolonged smoke pollution exposed millions to unhealthy air. With more mega-fires expected due to increases in extreme events associated with climate change (e.g. droughts, heat waves), fuel accumulation resulting from past fire suppression practices, and an expanding wildland-urban interface, there is a critical need to be able to identify future potential mega-fire situations and to understand their full impact on the environment, including implications for air quality. We propose to directly address each of the four specific needs identified in the RFA using existing databases and tools and focusing on quantifying the expected results and their uncertainties. The first step in the proposed study is to determine the past fuels, weather, and climate conditions observed during named mega-fires and also during very-large fires of various size classes (identified as the top 0.5-5% of fires greater than 1000 acres). We will then assess where and how often these conditions will occur by the middle of the century using 13 different IPCC climate models. With the identified potential locations and timings for these mega-fires and very-large fires, we will determine both the overall potential for smoke transport to cities and the expected smoke concentrations and episode durations. Finally, we will assess overall regional impacts of these mega-fires and very-large fires on regional haze. Rankings will be provide at each step identifying which potential future mega-fire and very-large fire locations have the greatest ability to impact over 700 sensitive receptors including large cities, smaller cities, and Class 1 airsheds (such as national parks and wilderness areas). Throughout this study national and regional fire and land management groups will be involved including the interagency National Predictive Services Groups tasked with operational near-term and longer-term forecasting of fire risk.

Principal Investigator: Narasimhan K. Larkin

Agency/Organization: Forest Service

Branch or Dept: PNW-AirFire Research Team

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Christina T. Bui

Forest Service

PNW-Pacific Northwest Research Station

Budget Contact

Rebecca A. Slick

Forest Service

PNW-Pacific Northwest Research Station

Co-Principal Investigator

John T. Abatzoglou

University of Idaho

Department of Geography

Co-Principal Investigator

Brian E. Potter

Forest Service

PNW-Seattle-Managing Natural Disturbances

Co-Principal Investigator

E. Ashley X. Steel

Forest Service

PNW-Pacific Northwest Research Station

Co-Principal Investigator

Brian J. Stocks

B.J. Stocks Wildfire Investigations Ltd.


Donald Z. McKenzie

Forest Service

PNW-Seattle-Managing Natural Disturbances


Miriam L. Rorig

Forest Service

PNW-Pacific Northwest Research Station


E. Ashley X. Steel

Forest Service

PNW-Pacific Northwest Research Station


Tara M. Strand

NZ Crown Research Institute (Scion)

Federal Cooperator

Narasimhan K. Larkin

Forest Service

PNW-AirFire Research Team

Project Locations





Great Basin

Great Plains

Lake States

Oak Woodlands

Northern Rockies




Southern Rockies









Project Deliverables

Final Report view or print

("Results presented in JFSP Final Reports may not have been peer-reviewed and should be interpreted as tentative until published in a peer-reviewed source.")

There are no deliverables available for this project.

Supporting Documents

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