Climate change may end up strengthening U.S. wildfires, and all that wildfire smoke is going to cause major health threats such as respiratory problems even in distant states that are far away from the places being burned, states an ecological group report released this past week about how each state did in 2011.
Two-thirds of American citizens, or about 212 million, resided in counties affected by wildfire smoke two years ago. This is according to the study by the Natural Resources Defense Council. There were almost 50 times more square miles that endured wildfire smoke that lasted over 12 days than were charred by the fire itself.
Wildfire smoke affects a much larger area of the U.S. than people understand, stated Kim Knowlton, who is a NRDC scientist and also works at Columbia University as a professor. She added that smoke can float over hundreds of miles and that it contains air pollution with fine particles inside. This not only causes more asthma attacks and pneumonia but also makes heart and lung diseases get worse.
The Americans living in the areas that received a lot of wildfire smoke for at least a week in 2011 were located in places such as Texas. It was hit very hard that year when wildfire smoke remained at least a week in places that were home to over 25 million people, according to the investigation based on smoke data from numerous weather satellites. Knowlton said that the majority of smoke came from wildfires, but the statistics do not put out which ones were deliberate for forest organization.
The state of Illinois, which had absolutely no wildfires happen within its boundaries, came in second with nearly 12 million residents affected by smoke that floated there from other places. The other eight states that had the most citizens exposed to smoky air were Missouri, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Iowa and Alabama.
22 states also had no type of any wildfires in their boundaries in 2011 either, yet eight of them still had at over at least one week of smoky air. They were Kansas, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin.
There were 18 states and also Washington, D.C. which it was found that none of their residents were exposed to at least seven days of smoke in the year. But strangely enough, five of them being California, Alaska, Hawaii, Utah, and Nevada all had some sort of burnt land from wildfires.
The problem is only going to get worse because scientific research shows that shows climate change is causing many higher temperatures and also more drought in various areas. Heat waves are going to happen more and last longer. A panel that was designed by the United Nations stated that they are seeing at present wet regions are receiving more rainfall than is needed, and dry areas are getting less. This is a major danger sign.
The U.S. forests in the western part are going to be more affected by intense and very large fires which might happen even more often, stated the third National Climate Assessment research report. It was accumulated by hundreds of researchers and released to the public this year. That study said eastern forests were not as likely to see the direct wildfire increases unless unusual conditions merge such as those that occurred in Florida recently.
This report also explained that while more states were attempting to warn citizens of the various health risks which are cause by wildfires, more observing needs to be done. If the quality of air is poor or it seems to be smoky in appearance on the outside, the group said for people to stay inside. They need to keep their windows shut and also not to use anything such as fireplaces that creates smoke. With the wildfire smoke posing such health threats to distant states, it is up to everyone to be aware of their surroundings.
Written by: Kimberly Ruble