Wildfires across much of California and Nevada increased ground-level ozone to high levels.
Click on image for full size
Image Courtesy of the Wikipedia Commons
Health Standards Exceeded by Ozone Pollution in Wildfires
News story originally written on October 9, 2008
Scientists from the National Center of Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have published a new paper about how wildfires affect air pollution. They have learned that wildfires make ozone levels high enough to cause problems for humans and the environment.
The scientists focused on California wildfires that broke out in September and October 2007. They learned that the wildfires caused ground-level ozone to spike to unhealthy levels across a large area, including much of rural California as well as neighboring Nevada.
Fires make ozone levels higher because they release chemicals called nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. These chemicals react with sunlight and can form ozone near the fire or far downwind of the fire. Ozone that is found higher up in the atmosphere (in the stratosphere) helps life on Earth by blocking ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, but ozone in the lower atmosphere can trigger a number of health problems. These include coughing, throat irritation, and making asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema worse. Ozone pollution also damages crops and other plants.
"It's important to understand the health impacts of wildfires," says NCAR scientist Gabriele Pfister. "We found that ozone can hit unhealthy levels even in places where you are not seeing any smoke."
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, ranging from seismology
, rocks and minerals
, and Earth system science
You might also be interested in:
Have you ever heard of ozone? That's a word that shows up in the news a lot! Do you know what ozone is and why it is important in the Earth's atmosphere? Ozone is made of three oxygen atoms (O3). You've...more
Did you know that ozone is found in two different layers of the atmosphere? You may have heard of the ozone hole problem - that is where ozone is missing in the stratosphere (the 2nd layer of the Earth's...more
Scientists have learned that Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, has erupted in the past due to the mixing of two different types of magma. Adam Kent, a geologist at Oregon State University, says this...more
The Earth's mantle is a rocky, solid shell that is between the Earth's crust and the outer core. The mantle is made up of many different reservoirs that have different chemical compositions. Scientists...more
Some faults look strong and like they wouldn’t cause an earthquake. But it turns out that they can slip and slide like weak faults causing earthquakes. Scientists have been looking at one of these faults...more
The sun goes through cycles that last approximately 11 years. These solar cycle include phases with more magnetic activity, sunspots, and solar flares. They also include phases with less activity. The...more
Studying tree rings doesn't only tell us the age of that tree. Tree rings also show what climate was like while the tree was alive. This means that tree rings can tell us about climates of the past. Two...more