Wildfire smoke from areas as far away as the Pacific coast can have significant impacts on air quality in the Great Lakes region.

Smoke from large wildfires can spread wide and far.  In 2018 we observed smoke on several days in the LADCO region that originated from fires in the western U.S. and Canada. Wildfire smoke is a concern because it contains harmful air pollutants, including particles, air toxics, and ozone precursors [1,2]. The health impacts from fire smoke exposure include increased rates of respiratory diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The image above shows wildfire smoke viewed from space on August 4, 2018. Darker shades of grey indicate thicker layers of smoke.  The circles overlaid on this plot are daily maximum ozone concentrations at monitoring sites. Orange and red colors represent locations with unhealthy air quality concentrations. This image of smoke impacts is fairly typical of the summer of 2018, in which large fire complexes in the Western U.S. produced smoke that blanketed the atmosphere over the majority of the country.

Smoke that is transported into the LADCO region degrades our air quality. Ozone, fine particulate matter, and regional haze may all be influenced by smoke that originates from thousands of miles away. LADCO is working with our member states to understand the trends in smoke impacts on our region and what the implication of these impacts are on public health and regulatory compliance.  We are integrating surface monitoring, remote sensing, and modeling into a data platform to identify in near real-time the extent to which fire smoke is exacerbating air pollution in our region.

About Author

Zac is LADCO's Executive Director. He's an environmental scientist with 20+ years experience in emissions and air quality modeling.