New synthesis of wildland fire smoke science

Smoke plume from a prescribed fire during the March 2022 Fire Research Campaign at Fort Stewart Military Base in Georgia. USDA Forest Service photo by Yongqiang Liu.

A comprehensive, open access book on smoke from wildland fires across the U.S. is now available. Wildland Fire Smoke in the United States: A Scientific Assessment synthesizes the physical, chemical, biological, social, and policy issues critical to mitigating the impacts of smoke from wildland fires.

Seventy researchers, land managers, and other experts co-authored the book. More than 20 USDA Forest Service scientists are co-authors, along with collaborators from federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, states, and universities.

Over its eight chapters, the book covers:

“Wildland fires are a major source of gases and aerosols, and a thorough understanding of fire emissions is essential for addressing the societal and climatic consequences of fire and smoke,” says Dr. Toral Patel-Weynand, Southern Research Station Director and one of the book’s editors. “This knowledge is increasingly important, as a warmer climate is contributing to more fires and more smoke exposure.”

Southern Research Station scientists Scott Goodrick, Ben Hornsby (now with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service), Yongqiang Liu, Louise Loudermilk, and Jeff Prestemon contributed much expertise to this volume. Their chapters focus on:

  • Improved, 3D fuels descriptions that inform estimates of fuel consumption and emissions;
  • Next-generation fire behavior and smoke dispersal models that put practical decision-making tools in the hands of managers; and
  • The links between smoke, human health, and economic impacts, a topic that needs more study to reduce risk and improve future outcomes.

Current, credible science and on-the-ground expertise will guide the agency’s fuels reduction projects and prescribed fire treatments in its 10-year strategy for Confronting the Wildfire Crisis.

The book also identifies where more research is needed. Patel-Weynand adds, “This assessment provides a roadmap for future research: What are the gaps and challenges to improving fire and smoke management over the next decades?”

The full book was published by Springer and freely available through open access. Find the latest publications by SRS scientists.