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Smoke Science Plan: The Path Forward

Smoke Science Plan: The Path Forward

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ISSUE 14 - SEPTEMBER 2012

Wildland fire managers face increasingly steep challenges to meet air quality standards while planning prescribed fire and its inevitable smoke emissions. The goals of sound fire management practices, including fuel load reduction through prescribed burning, are often challenged by the need to minimize smoke impacts on communities. Wildfires, of course, also produce smoke, so managers must constantly weigh the benefits and risks of controlled burns and their generated emissions against potential wildfires and their generated emissions and must communicate those benefits and risks to the public. Moreover, research on and the modeling of smoke emissions from fire is a rapidly evolving field and often lies at the cutting edge of atmospheric sciences. The Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) has supported research related to smoke management since its inception, but a recent analysis of past research and future needs suggests that better coordination of smoke science research could further advance the field and lead to development of better tools for managers. Smoke management and air quality have been identified as top priority areas of research for the JFSP, which has outlined a detailed path forward. The “Joint Fire Science Program Smoke Science Plan” presents a focused and integrated research agenda that is responsive to the needs of land resource managers and air quality regulators.
ISSUE 14 - SEPTEMBER 2012

Wildland fire managers face increasingly steep challenges to meet air quality standards while planning prescribed fire and its inevitable smoke emissions. The goals of sound fire management practices, including fuel load reduction through prescribed burning, are often challenged by the need to minimize smoke impacts on communities. Wildfires, of course, also produce smoke, so managers must constantly weigh the benefits and risks of controlled burns and their generated emissions against potential wildfires and their generated emissions and must communicate those benefits and risks to the public. Moreover, research on and the modeling of smoke emissions from fire is a rapidly evolving field and often lies at the cutting edge of atmospheric sciences. The Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) has supported research related to smoke management since its inception, but a recent analysis of past research and future needs suggests that better coordination of smoke science research could further advance the field and lead to development of better tools for managers. Smoke management and air quality have been identified as top priority areas of research for the JFSP, which has outlined a detailed path forward. The “Joint Fire Science Program Smoke Science Plan” presents a focused and integrated research agenda that is responsive to the needs of land resource managers and air quality regulators.

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Published by: Joint Fire Science Program on Nov 02, 2012
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Smoke Science Plan:
The Path Forward
ISSUE 14 SEPTEMBER 2012
Wildland re managers face increasingly steep challenges to meet air quality standards whileplanning prescribed re and its inevitable smoke emissions. The goals of sound re managementpractices, including fuel load reduction through prescribed burning, are often challenged by the needto minimize smoke impacts on communities. Wildres, of course, also produce smoke, so managersmust constantly weigh the benets and risks of controlled burns and their generated emissions againstpotential wildres and their generated emissions and must communicate those benets and risks tothe public. Moreover, research on and the modeling of smoke emissions from re is a rapidly evolvingeld and often lies at the cutting edge of atmospheric sciences. The Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP)has supported research related to smoke management since its inception, but a recent analysis of pastresearch and future needs suggests that better coordination of smoke science research could furtheradvance the eld and lead to development of better tools for managers. Smoke management and airquality have been identied as top priority areas of research for the JFSP, which has outlined a detailedpath forward. The “Joint Fire Science Program Smoke Science Plan” presents a focused and integratedresearch agenda that is responsive to the needs of land resource managers and air quality regulators.
Smoke and haze created from an aerial ignition prescribed re at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
   K  e  n   F  o  r   b  u  s ,   U   S   F   S
 
2
FIRE SCIENCE DIGEST ISSUE 14 SEPTEMBER 2012
managers’ needs, and a followup assessment of the
roundtables identied several topic areas that the JFSPcould invest in immediately.The initial assessment also recognized thataddressing some of the larger research needs identiedby the roundtables would require a master study planthat included logical steps and dependencies amongthe steps. To develop a focused and detailed plan,a more thorough analysis was needed. To that end,the JFSP called on the expertise of Allen Riebauand Doug Fox with Nine Points South TechnicalPty. Ltd., an environmental consulting and technicalsolutions company with extensive experience insmoke management and air quality research. Therst order of business was to place smoke needsassessment into a historical and regulatory context. Inthe rst phase, the team conducteda thorough literature review,analyzed information from the
roundtables and the roundtables’
initial assessment, collected datafrom other research assessments,interviewed re managementprofessionals and scientists, andcreated an overview of air qualityregulations as they relate to smokemanagement.The second phase involveda review of current national and
international wildland smokestudies and a series of web-based
questionnaires that reached abroader audience of researchersand wildland re management experts than waspossible in the roundtable workshops. The original,brief questionnaire was sent via email to 150 peoplein the smoke research and management community, inlarge part re managers from the U.S. Forest Service(USFS) and agencies within the U.S. Department of the Interior. The respondents were encouraged to passthe survey to colleagues, and eventually 554 peoplereplied. The questionnaire was followed up withpersonal phone calls and in-person interviews with asubset of the respondents.“Questionnaire respondents generally agreed thatsmoke factors are important now and will becomemore important in the next decade,” the authors notein a report published in the USFS’s “Fire ManagementToday” (Riebau and Fox 2010). With increasingregulatory pressure and threats to public health andsafety, a majority of respondents agreed that smokeis a signicant concern for natural resource managers
Smoke Line of Work
In recent years, the Joint Fire Science Program(JFSP) has addressed research needs in a morefocused and efcient manner, using the “line of work”concept, outlined by the JFSP Governing Board inthe “Joint Fire Science Program Science Delivery andApplication Strategy, 2007 through 2010.” The goalof using the line of work concept is for scientists andmanagers to collaborate in assessing high-priorityresearch needs, creating a framework to guideinvestments in a cohesive manner during a 3- to 5-yearperiod, and suggesting a future research agenda for aneven longer timeframe, up to 10 years.By dening broad issues of national concern, theline of work approach ensures that important areasof research supported by theJFSP t under a larger umbrellaof coordinated projects. Threelines of work have been identiedby the JFSP Governing Board:the Interagency Fuels TreatmentDecision Support System (see“Fire Science Digest,” Issue 7,December 2009), fuel treatmenteffects and effectiveness, andsmoke management and air quality.The “Joint Fire Science ProgramSmoke Science Plan” (JFSPProject No. 10-C-01-01), which
addresses the smoke management
and air quality line of work, waspublished in 2010 after 4 yearsof careful consideration of past research, input fromwildland re and air quality mangers, and projectionsof future needs based on an evolving regulatoryenvironment.The rst step in framing smoke researchneeds and issues was taken in June 2007, whensmoke management and air quality roundtableswere convened in Arlington, Virginia, and Seattle,Washington. The mission: to conduct a needsassessment of wildland re smoke research at nationaland regional levels. The roundtables addressed theneed to balance sound re management practices in anever-changing regulatory environment, and to identifyhigh-priority research needed in smoke emissionsscience and management. Invited participants includedincident commanders, prescribed re practitioners,representatives from state regulatory agencies, andnonprot organizations interested in re and airquality. The workshops were successful in dening
With increasing regulatory pressure and threats to public health and safetya majority of respondentsagreed that smoke is
a signicant concern
 for natural resourcemanagers and that moreshould be invested insmoke science research.
 
3
FIRE SCIENCE DIGEST ISSUE 14 SEPTEMBER 2012
and that more should be invested in smoke scienceresearch.Using the background information and theoriginal survey and interview results, Riebau andFox identied four themes to frame the researchagenda: smoke emissions inventory research, reand smoke model validation, smoke and populations,and climate change and smoke. “We believe that thethemes are on target with the direction other agencies,including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) and the National Oceanic and AtmosphericAdministration, have been considering for futureresearch investments,” says Riebau.The team then developed and sent out followup,comprehensive questionnaires focusing on each of the four priority themes. These questionnaires alsosparked an impressive grassroots response, as surveyparticipants passed them to their colleagues. In all,more than 1,000 people from the re management andsmoke research community responded. According tothe report on the questionnaires, this was probably the“largest and most representative response to a wildlandre smoke research needs assessment to date.” Infact, air quality and land resource managers in theEuropean Union and Australia have expressed interestin adapting the questionnaire to help guide their ownresearch agenda.
Plan the Work, Work the Plan
The Smoke Science Plan proposes a long-termincremental path forward with an explicit, detailedresearch focus for each of the four themes through2015 and a less detailed outline through 2019. “TheSmoke Science Plan doesn’t attempt to be all things toall people,” says Riebau. “Its purpose is to develop forthe JSFP a portfolio of research logically tied togetherthat, on a nancial and intellectual scale, will t withthe other parts of the JFSP research agenda.”The objectives of the four themes, as outlined inthe Smoke Science Plan, are to create:A smoke emissions inventory researchprogram to develop new science and
 
knowledge that will support and dene anaccurate national wildland re emissionsinventory system;A re and smoke model validation program todevelop the scientic scope, techniques, andpartnerships needed to validate smoke and remodels objectively using eld data;A smoke and human populations program todevelop the science to objectively quantify theimpact of wildland re smoke on populationsand reghters, elucidate the mechanismsof public smoke acceptance, and increaseunderstanding of the balance between ecosystemhealth and acceptable smoke exposure risks; andA climate change and smoke research programto gain understanding of the implications of wildland re smoke to and from climate changeusing the newest climate scenarios from theUnited Nations Intergovernmental Panel onClimate Change (IPCC) as guidance.As part of the literature review for the SmokeScience Plan, nearly 40 current or recently completedJFSP projects were identied that t within the fourthematic categories. Future lines of research willbuild on and expand work that is already underway.Research conducted under these four themes willlead to advances in smoke science and help managersdeal with the current and future challenges of smokemanagement.
Smoke Emissions InventoryResearch
Air quality managers and regulators need reliable
information on the spatial and temporal distribution
The Smoke Science Plan unites four themes, each of them ad
-
dressing a need, and each need resulting from a large “driver” thathas historically impacted and will continue to impact wildland remanagement in the United States.
 Air qualitystandards Air qualitymanagementChange inlarge-scalefire ecology
Need for better emissions information
EmissionsInventoryResearchFire andSmokeModelValidationSmoke andPopulationsClimateChangeand Smoke
SmokeSciencePlan
Need for public acceptance of smokewhile protecting public health
 e  e  d  f    o r   b   e  t    t    e r  m o  d   e l    s 
    N   e   e    d    t   o   u   n    d   e   r   s    t   a   n    d   s   m   o    k   e   a   n    d   c    l    i   m   a    t   e   c    h   a   n   g   e   r   e    l   a    t    i   o   n   s    h    i   p   s
Ecosystemandhumanhealth

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