Fourteen years ago, University of Washington researcher Daniel Jaffe installed an air pollution monitor on a mountainside outside Eugene, Ore.
His intention was to measure pollution levels, with a particular focus on tracking emissions from China that drift into the United States in the spring. But in recent years, the monitor has unexpectedly produced a second and more urgent data set: tracking fine particle pollution from wildfires in the western United States.
“We spend more of our time not worrying about what’s coming across the ocean but worrying about what’s coming here,” he said.
Climate change is not just increasing the likelihood of wildfires in some areas of the country; it’s also erasing decades of air pollution gains in those same regions, according to a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It shows that wildfires are causing a spike in air pollution across the West. [Continue reading…]