Assessing Potential Impacts from the 2018 California Wildfires on Atmospheric Particulate Concentrations in U.S. National Parks
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United States’ national parks offer visitors the opportunity to engage in outdoor recreation. People travel to national parks for many reasons. They enjoy the serene beauty and scenic views of parks while seeking solace from fast-paced lives. One expectation of national parks is that they will provide visitors with pristine and safe air quality in which the natural landscape can be truly appreciated. However, it has been reported that 96 percent of the National Park Service’s protected areas experience significant air pollution problems, 89 percent suffer from atmospheric haze (Kodish et al. 2019). Smoke from fires, both naturally and intentionally occurring, yield significant amounts of particulates. As climates change more dramatically due to continued global warming, wildfire occurrence is expected to increase. With 61 designated national parks and other protected natural areas in the United States classified as Class I air quality protection regions, there are many unique areas in dire need of preservation. As such, this study attempts to answer two main questions: 1) How much did the 2018 California wildfires impact the concentrations of particulate matter (PM) in the national parks and which regions were impacted the worst? and 2) Which national parks in California experienced the greatest number of “action days” and did these events affect park visitation?