New Measurements of Toxics and Organics in Tahoe Smoke

Jul 10, 2008

To better understand the effects of catastrophic wildfires on the Lake Tahoe ecosystem, UC Davis researchers will install a fourth state-of-the-art air sampler at Lake Tahoe on Monday.

The UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center has long-established air sampling programs at three Tahoe Basin locations -- in Tahoe City on the north shore; on a buoy at the center of the lake; and at their Incline Village lab. Instruments continuously measure particle mass and size, and components such as dust and nutrients, and are central to efforts to understand the basin's air quality and its effects on lake clarity.

The new sampler is designed to provide more detailed analyses of the organic compounds and toxic materials that result when forests burn. "The catastrophic wildfires that are burning in California are sending unusual amounts of smoke and particulates across California and into the Tahoe Basin," said Thomas Cahill, a UC Davis professor emeritus of physics and atmospheric sciences. "This sampler will tell us exactly what is in the air and what may be falling onto the lake."

Those analyses, paired with the research center's water studies, will show, for example, if the nitrogen fallout from burned trees ends up fueling an algae bloom in the lake, said Geoff Schladow, Tahoe Environmental Research Center director. During the June 2007 Angora fire, which occurred within the Tahoe Basin, smoke and ash resulted in a short-term increase in algal growth in the lake. This year's fires are producing less smoke within the Tahoe Basin, but the smoke has been present for a much longer period.

Cahill recently completed the most extensive analysis to date of Tahoe Basin wildfires. The work was commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service. He said one of his findings was that in pre-settlement times, summer fires in the basin were common.

"These historic lightning-caused fires would burn for weeks in the forest," Cahill said. "The difference between then and now is that the fires stayed low to the ground, unlike the catastrophic fires we have now, which burn all the way up into the treetops and send huge smoke clouds high into the air."

Cahill added that the shore-to-shore visibility that Tahoe visitors enjoy today is not usual, either. When low-burning summer fires were common, he said, "Every night, cool air flowing down the mountainsides would push the smoke into the center of the lake."

Source: UC Davis

Explore further: Israeli port city closes 5 factories over cancer fears

Related Stories

OrangeSec pair said Cortana visited Android

5 hours ago

Can, did, Cortana work on Android? A talked-about act at droidcon 2015: a presentation titled "Cracking Cortana." The OrangeSec team arrived at the Turin, Italy, event to show their work in a CortanaProxy ...

Mercury MESSENGER nears epic mission end

7 hours ago

A spacecraft that carries a sensor built at the University of Michigan is about to crash into the planet closest to the sun—just as NASA intended.

DOJ, FBI acknowledge flawed testimony from unit

8 hours ago

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in the FBI Laboratory's microscopic hair comparison unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against ...

Dawn glimpses Ceres' north pole

8 hours ago

After spending more than a month in orbit on the dark side of dwarf planet Ceres, NASA's Dawn spacecraft has captured several views of the sunlit north pole of this intriguing world. These images were taken ...

Recommended for you

Mountain of electrical waste reaches new peak

16 hours ago

A record amount of electrical and electronic waste hit the rubbish tips in 2014, with the biggest per-capita tallies in countries that pride themselves on environmental consciousness, a report said Sunday.

China's struggle for water security

Apr 18, 2015

Way back in 1999, before he became China's prime minister, Wen Jiabao warned that water scarcity posed one of the greatest threats to the "survival of the nation".

Canada revises upward CO2 emission data since 1990

Apr 18, 2015

Canada revised its greenhouse gas emission data from 1990 to 2013 in a report Friday, showing it had higher carbon dioxide discharges each year, and a doubling of emissions from its oil sands.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.