10 May 2022
10 May 2022
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Projected increases in wildfires may challenge regulatory curtailment of PM2.5 over the eastern US by 2050

Chandan Sarangi1,2, Yun Qian2, Ruby Leung2, Yang Zhang3, Yufei Zou4,2, and Yuhang Wang4 Chandan Sarangi et al.
  • 1Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai, India
  • 2Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, USA
  • 3Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northeastern University, Boston, MA
  • 4School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA

Abstract. Anthropogenic contribution to the overall fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations has been declining sharply in North America. In contrast, a steep rise in wildfire-induced air pollution events with recent warming is evident in the region. Here, based on coupled fire-climate-ecosystem model simulations, summertime wildfire-induced PM2.5 concentrations are projected to nearly double in North America by the mid-21st century compared to the present. More strikingly, the projected enhancement in fire-induced PM2.5 (~ 1–2 µg/m3) and its contribution (~15–20 %) to the total PM2.5 are distinctively significant in the eastern US. This can be attributed to downwind transport of smoke from future enhancement of wildfires in North America to the eastern US and associated positive climatic feedback on PM2.5 via increased atmospheric stability and reduced precipitation. Therefore, the anticipated reductions in PM2.5 from regulatory controls on anthropogenic emissions could be significantly compromised in the future in the densely populated eastern US.

Chandan Sarangi et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2022-324', Anonymous Referee #1, 22 May 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on acp-2022-324', Anonymous Referee #2, 07 Jul 2022

Chandan Sarangi et al.

Chandan Sarangi et al.


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Short summary
We show that for air quality, the densely-populated eastern US may see even larger impacts of wildfires due to long-distance smoke transport and associated positive climatic impacts, partially compensating the improvements from regulations in anthropogenic emissions. This study highlights the tension between natural and anthropogenic contributions and the non-local nature of air pollution that complicate regulatory strategies for improving future regional air quality for human health.