Researchers study how to reduce soot produced by agricultural fires

agricultural burning smoke
Smoke plume from the burning of wheat residue on the Nez Perce Reservation. The field was burned using a head fire. The dark color of the smoke plume indicates high soot content. Photo by Emily Lincoln.

The production cycle of cereal crops and grasses in many areas of the United States includes burning fields of post-harvest residue such as wheat stubble. Like smoke from forest fires, smoke produced by agricultural burning can have harmful effects on public health.

The U.S. Forest Service and the Washington State Department of Ecology conducted a study to determine the effects different ignition tactics had on the smoke produced by agricultural burning of wheat residue.

agricultural burning smoke
Smoke plume from the burning of wheat residue north of Walla Walla, Washington. The field was burned using a backing fire. The light color of the smoke plume indicates low soot content. Photo by Emily Lincoln.

They found that smoke plumes produced from burning wheat residue using head fires contained more soot than plumes produced using backing fires.

Soot particles are black aerosols composed primarily of elemental carbon. The World Health Organization reports that soot particles may have significantly greater negative health impacts than other particle types found in smoke and air pollution since these particles can act as a carrier for toxic combustion-derived chemicals.

Wildfire smoke and Red Flag Warnings, September 10, 2016

wildfire smoke map
Distribution of smoke from wildfires, September 10, 2016. NOAA.

The National Weather Service has posted Red Flag Warnings or Fire Weather Watches for areas in Washington, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, and South Dakota for today.

Red Flag Warnings

The Red Flag map was current as of 9:45 a.m. MDT on Saturday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts and maps. For the most current data visit this NWS site. However, that site has not been properly displaying warning areas in recent days. This one may work better.

Click on the maps to see larger versions.

Fire weather outlook
Fire weather outlook for September 11, 2016

Wildfire smoke map, and prediction for August 24, 2016

Smoke map
The distribution of wildfire smoke at 3:54 p.m. MDT August 23, 2016.

Smoke from wildfires is affecting a large portion of the United States and Canada.

The map below is an experimental forecast for wildfire smoke at 5 p.m. MDT Wednesday, August 24.

wildfire smoke forecast
The forecast for wildfire smoke at 5 p.m. MDT August 24, 2016.