Quirks & Quarks

Flying into the heart of a wildfire, for science

Scientists on a bumpy adventure through wildfire plumes discover the blazes can produce up to three times more smoke per amount of fuel burned than previously thought.

What scientists learned from the 2013 Rim Fire

Quirks and Quarks

4 years ago
What scientists learned from the 2013 Rim Fire 0:48

When most people hear about a wildfire in their vicinity, they're natural response is to flee. Not our guest. 

Dr. Bob Yokelson started his career marching on foot into the heart of blazes as a firefighter. 

He's upgraded how he braves the thick, dark smoke. It's all in the service of science.

NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy sponsored a mission by Yokelson and a team of scientists to fly directly into the hazardous plumes from wildfires. 

Over and over, they bumped through smoke plumes, training their specialized instruments on the devastating 2013 Rim Fire that ravaged California's Yosemite National Park and beyond. 

What they measured changes our understanding of the causes of a major source of air pollution and offers clues to avoid calamity.