Washington: A recent study by Harvard University researchers point towards a worsened scenario for the US wildfire season which is expected to turn even smokier and prolonged as a result of climate change.
The Harvard team`s study suggests that by 2050, wildfire seasons will be about three weeks longer, up to twice as smoky, and will burn a wider area in the western states.
A senior research fellow in atmospheric chemistry at SEAS and co-author of the new study, Loretta J. Mickley, said that in the future atmosphere warmer temperatures are expected which are conducive to fires for the western US over a period of time.
Lead author of the study, Xu Yue said that wildfires are triggered by one set of influences, mainly human activity and lightning , but they grow and spread according to a completely different range of influences that are heavily dependent on the weather which collectively result in big fires.
The research found that by examining records of past weather conditions and wildfires, the team found that the main factors influencing the spread of fires vary from region to region.
The Harvard team also found that the air quality is projected to suffer as a result of these larger, longer-lasting wildfires leading to visibility issues and respiratory problems.
Based on this information and known emission factors for combustion, the researchers predict that smoke will increase 20-100 percent by the 2050s, depending on the region and the type of particle.
According to the study, the air quality has vastly improved over much of the United States in the past 40 years, as a result of government efforts to regulate emissions. However, co-author of the study Loretta J. Mickley, warned that increasing wildfires might erase some of the progress.
Mickley said that what people need to realize is that embedded in those curves showing the tiny temperature increases year after year are more extreme events that can be quite serious.