Wildfires in Montana are nothing new.
Last year, the Treasure State saw a bad fire season with more than 114,000 acres burned.
In an attempt to better understand how wildfires may affect weather, climate and even health, a group of University of Montana scientists will fly directly into the smoke of a wildfire.
UM, assistant professor of chemistry, Lu Hu, and graduate students will spend 150 hours in the air above smoke plumes.
The team of researchers will use an instrument that will provide real-time measurements of volatile organic compounds in wildfire smoke. These compounds are typically toxic and can form ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter.
Through the data collected on their flights, in the future, we’ll have a better idea of how wildfire smoke effects the environment and the health of people in downwind communities.
“Right now, the current air quality model cannot predict the wildfire impact on air quality. For one of the reasons is that we do not have good samples from the fire…what are those chemical compositions of those fire plums,” says Hu.
UM is just one of five schools involved with the study, which is backed by a $3.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
Test flights are planned for the end of the summer, with the major field work being conducted in Boise, Idaho in 2018.