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Colorado professor leads team that will fly plane into wildfire smoke to study impact

Month and a half long study is set to begin
Posted at 9:24 PM, Jul 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-18 00:41:17-04

BROOMFIELD, Colo. -- A mobile chemistry lab built on an airplane is about to take flight, helping us learn more about the chemical composition of wildfire smoke.

The $3.8 million study could ultimately help improve air quality forecasts.

"It means we’ll have a better understanding of what’s in that smoke that you breathe," said Emily Fischer, the lead scientist on the project and an assistant professor at CSU.

Fischer and her team have been prepping a C-130 Hercules aircraft with a variety of instruments that will measure smoke and gases that are present in the air during a fire.

"The goal for this is to sample as many different fires at as many different times of day, under as many different conditions as possible, so we get sort of the lay of the land in terms of smoke chemistry," said Fischer.

During a test flight, the team flew over the burn scar from the Spring Creek Fire. They will be flying over wildfires across the west over the next six weeks.

The National Science Foundation aircraft is being managed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Other universities are also partnering with CSU to conduct the research.