Wildfire surge traced to climate change

Climate change is likely to cause a surge in wildfires in the western United States that will expose tens of millions of Americans to high levels of air pollution in the coming decades, according to a Yale-led study conducted in collaboration with researchers at Harvard. Estimating air pollution from past and projected future wildfires in 561 counties, the researchers projected that by mid-century more than 82 million people will experience “smoke waves,” consecutive days with high air pollution related to fires.

Most likely to be affected are northern California, western Oregon, and the Great Plains. “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,” said Jia Coco Liu, Ph.D. ’16, a graduate of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and lead author of the study.