Rocky mountain haze
Rocky mountain haze.
University of Utah atmospheric scientist Gannet Hallar and colleagues find a correlation between the severity of drought in the Intermountain West and the summertime air quality, particularly the concentration of aerosol particles, in remote mountain wilderness regions.
The link between drought and haze is likely wildfire, the researchers write in Environmental Research Letters.
"If you take that into the future, we’re going to see significant hazing of the West," Hallar says.
Haze in the air is caused by small airborne particles — typically dust, soot, ash or smoke.
Aerosol particles made of organic carbon, such as soot or smoke, can absorb energy, however, warming the climate.
The team, consisting of hydrologists and atmospheric scientists, looked at climate and drought records for the West to see if they could find a connection to the summer mountain haze.
"It’s the fires," Hallar says.
"That has me concerned because climate models are predicting in the future a significant increase in organic aerosol loading."
Hallar hopes that her results highlight the importance of managing the relationship between drought, fire and haze in the West.