A joint study by Yale and Harvard University mapping the effects of the widespread wildfires has revealed that the ensuing “smoke waves” will have lasting effects on human health. The study refers to smoke waves as consecutive days with high air pollution related to fires.
The wildfires produce the pollutant PM2.5, which are microscopic particles. With prolonged exposure the particles could cause heart problems and respiratory tract disorders.
Results of the recent study were published in the journal Climatic Change
"Our study illustrates that smoke waves are likely to be longer, more intense, and more frequent under climate change. This raises critical health, ecological, and economic concerns. Identifying communities that will be most affected in the future will inform development of fire management strategies and disaster preparedness programs," said Jia Coco Liu, a recent Ph.D. graduate at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and lead author of the study.
The study projected that 56% of the counties currently affected by the smoke waves containing the pollutants will likely face more intense smoke waves in the future. About 19% will experience less intense air pollution.
"We hope these results will advance the understanding of the impacts of an increasing threat of wildfire smoke, and aid in the design of early warning systems, fire suppression policies and public health programs," Liu stated.