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Project ID: 13-1-01-4

Year: 2013

Date Started: 08/01/2013

Date Completed: 10/30/2017

Title: Estimating the Effects of Changing Climate on Fires and Consequences for U.S. Air Quality Using a Set of Global and Regional Climate Models

Project Proposal Abstract: Emissions of aerosols and gases from fires have been shown to adversely affect US air quality at local to regional scales as well as downwind regions far away from the source. Fire activity is strongly related to weather and climate. Recent observations have shown an upward trend of area burned over western US resulting from increasing fire activity, most likely related to climate change. Climate-driven changes in fire emissions may result in an increased of carbonaceous aerosol, and a significant increase in annual mean PM2.5 and haze. The proposed study will provide an integrated assessment of the effects of fires under different future climate scenarios on ozone, BC and fine particulate matter mass (PM2.5), including secondary organic aerosols (SOA) across the entire US. The analysis will explicitly consider changes in vegetation and biogenic emissions associated with changing climate and anthropogenic emissions. We will investigate the relationship between climate and the frequency and magnitude of fires to develop scenarios for future fire activity for different future climates. These scenarios will be used to generate fire emissions for global and regional chemical transport model simulations of US air quality, which will be compared to primary and secondary US National Ambient Air Quality Standards. As a basis for quantifying the effects of future fires, this project will also simulate the effects of present-day fires on air quality in the US. This project will use a combination of models to estimate fire impacts on air quality at both global and regional scales. We will use the NCAR global coupled land-atmospheric-climate Community Earth System Model (CESM) with embedded fire and dynamic vegetation schemes to simulate future climate, to determine the subsequent changes in vegetation and area burned in different ecosystems, to estimate fire emissions, and to calculate air pollution concentrations. These simulations will follow the new Representative Concentration Pathway climate projections (used in the forthcoming IPCC AR5 report) and will be performed at high resolution on a global scale (~50 km spatial grid scale). Our approach of using the global CESM model is preferred to downscaling climate projections to drive a regional model because (1) CESM will produce self-consistent, fully coupled simulations where the climate dynamics will drive natural emissions, including fire emissions, and will be directly linked to air quality, (2) the 50x50 km resolution is comparable to many regional models, and (3) CESM will also account for changes in non-US (e.g., Mexico) fire emissions on US air quality. We will also perform simulations with a regional chemical transport model, PMCAMx, at a spatial resolution 12x12 km for western and southeast US with a 36x36 km resolution for the rest of the country. The future fire emissions for these simulations will be downscaled from the CESM output for different climate scenarios. This will allow us to study the impact on air quality at the sub-county level, to better simulate the atmospheric evolution of fire emissions and their ultimate contribution to ambient PM and O3, to apply state-of-the-art SOA formation mechanisms, and to leverage on-going Joint Fire Science Program research. This modeling exercise will represent the first attempt to quantify the effect of climate change on fire activity, vegetation and air quality over the entire US, in which climate dynamics will drive fire and biogenic emissions linked directly to air quality within the same modeling framework at 50x50 km. Results will be evaluated with a high-resolution regional model. This project will quantify the potential changes in fire activity and vegetation resulting from future changes in climate; develop global daily averages of area burned and fire emissions at fine scale; and assess future contributions from fires to ambient levels of O3, SOA, BC and PM2.5.

Principal Investigator: Jeffrey R. Pierce

Agency/Organization: Colorado State University

Branch or Dept: Department of Atmospheric Science

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Vincent B. Bogdanski

Colorado State University

Sponsored Programs

Budget Contact

Lisa M. Anaya

Colorado State University

Sponsored Programs

Co-Principal Investigator

Colette L. Heald

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Co-Principal Investigator

Allen L. Robinson

Carnegie Mellon University

Department of Mechanical Engineering

Co-Principal Investigator

Maria X. Val Martin

Colorado State University

Department of Atmospheric Science

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network







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.")

  ID Type Title
view or print   3623 Journal Article Fire Management Today
view or print   7995 Final Report Summary Final Report Summary

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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