Large wildfires can be a major contributor to degraded air quality, said Shawn Urbanski, a research physical scientist at the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station who is working to improve a national wildfire pollution emissions inventory.
Much of the degradation comes from microscopic particulate matter known as PM2.5, which is particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers, which can cause health problems. Smoke also produces ozone, another pollutant.
In 2011, wildfires were responsible for 35 percent of fine particulate matter pollution, the No. 1 source in the country, Urbanski said. [Read more…]