Characterizing grassland fire activity in the Flint Hills region and air quality using satellite and routine surface monitor data

TitleCharacterizing grassland fire activity in the Flint Hills region and air quality using satellite and routine surface monitor data
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsBaker, KR, Koplitz, SN, Foley, KM, Avey, L, Hawkins, A
JournalScience of The Total Environment
Pagination1555 - 1566
Accession NumberKNZ001950

Prescribed grassland fires in the Flint Hills region of central Kansas and northern Oklahoma are a common tool for land management. Local to regional scale impacts on air quality from grassland fires in this region are not well understood, which is important as these types of prescribed fires may increase in the future to preserve broader areas of native grasses in the central U.S. Routine air quality and deposition measurements from sites in and near the Flint Hills were examined for coincident increases during periods of increased prescribed grassland fires. Prescribed fire activity in this region was quantified using satellite detections and multiple publicly available data products of area burned information. March and April comprise over half (41 to 93%) of all annual fire detections in the Flint Hills region seen from satellites between 2007 and 2018 excluding drought years. Annual total fire detections in this region range between 1 and 12 thousand and account for approximately 3% of all fire detections in the contiguous U.S. Annual acres burned ranged from 0.2 to 2 million acres based on U.S. EPA's National Emission Inventory, which accounts for 4 to 38% of grasslands in the area. A comparison of weekly standardized anomalies suggests a relationship between periods of increased grassland fire activity and elevated levels of PM2.5 organic carbon, elemental carbon, and potassium. Daily 1-hr maximum ozone (O3), ammonia (NH3), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and oxidized nitrogen gases measured at Konza Prairie also had increased levels when prescribed grassland fire activity was highest. This detailed characterization of prescribed fire activity in the Flint Hills and associated air quality impacts will benefit future efforts to understand changes in atmospheric composition due to changing land management practices.