USA–– The historic wildfire season that has scorched land throughout the west this spring and summer has also produced an historic response from the joint Defense Department/Forest Service air tankers fighting them.
The Defense Department Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS)-equipped C-130s dropped the two millionth gallon of retardant for the season on Aug. 24, according to the Defense Department.
Additionally, said DoD officials, 2012 is the first year since 2008 that all four MAFFS wings have been activated simultaneously. The DoD added that leaders of the 153rd Air Expeditionary Group in Boise, ID, where some of the aircraft are based, said this season is the third-highest in MAFFS history for gallons of retardant dropped, surpassed only by 1994 and 2000, when about 5 million gallons and 2.1 million gallons, respectively, were dropped.
Through Aug. 27, said DoD, the MAFFS fleet had released more than 2,152,603 gallons of fire retardant during 899 drops on fires in 10 states.
MAFFS is a joint DOD and U.S. Forest Service program that provides additional aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private air tankers are no longer able to meet the needs of the forest service.
MAFFS 5, assigned to the Air Force Reserve Commands 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, CO, dropped the record-breaking gallon during its third trip of the day battling the Halstead fire north of Stanley, ID, according to the DoDs Armed Forces Press Service. The Halstead fire has consumed almost 105,000 acres of timber in the rugged, remote Salmon-Challis National Forest since it started on July 27. Almost 600 firefighters are working to put the blaze out.
Also on Aug. 24, said the news service, the Wyoming Air National Guards 53rd Airlift Wing also provided aerial firefighting support to the Halstead fire, and additional MAFFS-equipped C-130s flew in support of firefighting efforts in California and Oregon.
The Halstead fire is only one of dozens burning the parched western states during one of the hottest summers on record, keeping aircraft like the DoDs MAFF-equipped C-130s busy.
According to the DoD report, MAFFS-equipped C-130s have been activated since June 25, when they were requested by the U.S. Forest Service for assistance in the Rocky Mountain area.
Throughout the 2012 season, it said, MAFFS C-130s have been flying out of a number of tanker base locations, moving MAFFS operations closer to the fires as needed. Tanker bases in 2012 included locations in Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, Idaho, California, Montana and Oregon.
This year, MAFFS supported firefighting efforts in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.When the Fourmile Canyon Fire erupted west of Boulder in 2010, smoke from the wildfire poured into parts of the city including a site housing scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-08-evidence-heat-trapping-effects-wildfire-particles.html#jCpWithin 24 hours, a few researchers at the David Skaggs Research Center had opened up a particle sampling port on the roof of the building and started pulling in smoky air for analysis by two custom instruments inside. They became the first scientists to directly measure and quantify some unique heat-trapping effects of wildfire smoke particles.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-08-evidence-heat-trapping-effects-wildfire-particles.html#jCpWhen the Fourmile Canyon Fire erupted west of Boulder in 2010, smoke from the wildfire poured into parts of the city including a site housing scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Within 24 hours, a few researchers at the David Skaggs Research Center had opened up a particle sampling port on the roof of the building and started pulling in smoky air for analysis by two custom instruments inside. They became the first scientists to directly measure and quantify some unique heat-trapping effects of wildfire smoke particles. “For the first time we were able to measure these warming effects minute-by-minute as the fire progressed,” said CIRES scientist Dan Lack, lead author of the study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers also were able to record a phenomenon called the “lensing effect,” in which oils from the fire coat the soot particles and create a lens that focuses more light onto the particles. This can change the “radiative balance” in an area, sometimes leading to greater warming of the air and cooling of the surface. While scientists had previously predicted such an effect and demonstrated it in laboratory experiments, the Boulder researchers were one of the first to directly measure the effect during an actual wildfire. Lack and his colleagues found that lensing increased the warming effect of soot by 50 to 70 percent. “When the fire erupted on Labor Day, so many researchers came in to work to turn on instruments and start sampling that we practically had traffic jams on the road into the lab,” Lack said. “I think we all realized that although this was an unfortunate event, it might be the best opportunity to collect some unique data. It turned out to be the best dataset, perfectly suited to the new instrument we had developed.” The instrument called a spectrophotometer can capture exquisite detail about all particles in the air, including characteristics that might affect the smoke particles’ tendency to absorb sunlight and warm their surroundings. While researchers know that overall, wildfire smoke can cause this lensing effect, the details have been difficult to quantify, in part because of sparse observations of particles from real-world fires. Once the researchers began studying the data they collected during the fire, it became obvious that the soot from the wildfire was different in several key ways from soot produced by other sourcesdiesel engines, for example. “When vegetation burns, it is not as efficient as a diesel engine, and that means some of the burning vegetation ends up as oils,” Lack said. In the smoke plume, the oils coated the soot particles and that microscopic sheen acted like a magnifying glass, focusing more light onto the soot particles and magnifying the warming of the surrounding air. The researchers also discovered that the oils coating the soot were brown, and that dark coloration allowed further absorption of light, and therefore further warming the atmosphere around the smoke plume. The additional warming effects mean greater heating of the atmosphere enveloped in dark smoke from a wildfire, and understanding that heating effect is important for understanding climate change, Lack said. The extra heating also can affect cloud formation, air turbulence, winds and even rainfall. The discovery was made possible by state-of-the-art instruments developed by CIRES, NOAA and other scientists, Lack said. The instruments can capture fine-scale details about particles sent airborne by the fire, including their composition, shape, size, color and ability to absorb and reflect sunlight of various wavelengths. “With such well-directed measurements, we can look at the warming effects of soot, the magnifying coating and the brown oils and see a much clearer, yet still smoky picture of the effect of forest fires on climate,” Lack said. CIRES is a cooperative institute of CU-Boulder and NOAA.