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Biomass Consumption and Smoke Production by Prehistoric and Modern Forest Fires in Western Washington

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Wild and prescribed fires currently burn about 20,100 ha per year in Washington west of the Cascade Crest: prehistoric wildfires burned an estimated 19,200 ha per year. Modern burning consumes 38 g/m²/yr of fuel; the estimated prehistoric rate was 35 g/m²/yr over a 50-percent larger forestland base. Total fuel consumption and smoke production from forestland therefore have declined by about 22 percent. Impairment of visibility in prehistoric times by forest fire smoke was probably slight except during infrequent major fires. Today visibility is slightly to moderately impaired more often, but smoke palls of prehistoric magnitude are unlikely to occur. The ability to compare prehistoric and modern conditions should facilitate air quality planning and management.

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Research Biologist and Associate Professor, National Park Service Cooperative Park Studies Unit, College of Forest Resources, University of Washington

Publication date: 1983-10-01

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  • The Journal of Forestry is the most widely circulated scholarly forestry journal in the world. In print since 1902, the Journal has received several national awards for excellence. The mission of the Journal of Forestry is to advance the profession of forestry by keeping forest management professionals informed about significant developments and ideas in the many facets of forestry: economics, education and communication, entomology and pathology, fire, forest ecology, geospatial technologies, history, international forestry, measurements, policy, recreation, silviculture, social sciences, soils and hydrology, urban and community forestry, utilization and engineering, and wildlife management. The Journal is published bimonthly: January, March, May, July, September, and November.

    2015 2016 Impact Factor: 1.675 (Rank 20/64 in forestry)

    Average time from submission to first decision: 39.6 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

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