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Smoke and Mirrors: Detecting the Amount of Gases in Wildland Fire Smoke

This article is from Issue Wildland Fire - Vol. 4 No. 1.

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Some kinds of forest fires can be beneficial to the natural environment and to people. Fire is a normal event in the natural environment. Forest fires also have some disadvantages. The scientists in this study wanted to test the smoke that comes from forest fires to discover the amount of greenhouse gases going into the troposphere.

Welcome to the Wildland Fire edition

Note to Educators

The Story of Smokey Bear

Education Standards Correlations


Meet the scientists that contributed to this article:

"Science Topics" covered in this article:
  • Earth Science
  • People and Science
  • Technology and Science

"Environmental Topics" covered in this article:
  • Atmosphere (Educators)
  • Vegetation Management (Educators)
  • Vegetation Protection (Fire, Insects, Endangered Species) (Educators)

Regions covered in this article:
  • Alaska
  • Intermountain
  • Northern
  • Pacific Northwest
  • Pacific Southwest
  • Rocky Mountain
  • Southern
  • Southwestern

"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
Scientists often work with other scientists on their research projects. This is similar to what you do when you work with other students on a class project. In this study, scientists from the University of Montana, the USDA Forest Service, and the University of Wollongong in Australia worked together to study the gaseous emissions of forest fires. What are the advantages of working with others when you are trying to learn something new? What are the disadvantages?
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • Characteristics of Scientists

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
You have probably heard a lot about global warming. Global warming is the gradual warming of the Earth. Some scientists believe that it will take decades or more to prove that global warming is or is not occurring. Other scientists believe that there is enough evidence now to claim that global warming exists. Global warming occurs when too much heat is trapped in the troposphere by certain kinds of gases. These gases are commonly called greenhouse gases. Some warming of the troposphere is necessary because the Earth would freeze without it. When greenhouse gases escape from Earth and are trapped in the troposphere, the heat is reflected back to Earth. One of the things that might cause greenhouse gases to escape into the troposphere is forest fires. The scientists in this study wanted to know the amount of greenhouse gases escaping to the troposphere during forest fires.
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Global Warming

NSE Standards covered in this article:
  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (A)
  • Natural hazards (F)
  • Nature of science (G)
  • Properties and changes of properties in matter (B)
  • Risks and benefits (F)
  • Science and technology in society (F)
  • Science as a human endeavor (G)
  • Transfer of energy (B)
  • Understandings about science and technology (E)
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry (A)

Science Benchmarks covered in this article:
  • Habits of Mind: Communication Skils
  • Habits of Mind: Critical-Response Skills
  • The Living Environment: Interdependence of Life
  • The Nature of Science: Scientific Inquiry
  • The Nature of Science: The Scientific Enterprise
  • The Nature of Technology: Issues in Technology
  • The Nature of Technology: Technology and Science
  • The Physical Setting: Energy Transformations
  • The Physical Setting: The Structure of Matter