NRL takes lead in NASA’s wildfire and smoke study with $30 million PYREX mission

May 13, 2024

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory embarks on major wildfire study

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has embarked on a significant new venture, the PYRocumulonimbus (pyroCb) EXperiment (PYREX), funded by NASA through its Earth Venture program.

As reported by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Corporate Communications, the mission, equipped with a $30 million budget over the next five years, is designed to delve into the impact of pyroCb activities on the climate.

David A. Peterson, Ph.D., a meteorologist at NRL, has been chosen to spearhead this pivotal research.

Exploring the impact of pyroCb on climate and wildfire behavior

PYREX aims to address the escalating wildfire sizes and intensities in a warming climate, which could amplify pyroCb-driven smoke injection into the stratosphere.

Such injections have potential long-term impacts on sunlight absorption and reflection by the Earth’s atmosphere.

The study will utilize dual airborne platforms for a comprehensive analysis of fire and pyroconvection dynamics, from the surface up to the stratosphere, covering remote sensing and in situ measurements.

Study sites and international collaboration enhance PYREX goals

The study will be conducted across multiple sites including Palmdale, California; Boise, Idaho; and Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada.

The PYREX team also includes Neil Lareau, Ph.D., from the University of Nevada, Reno, and Olga Kalashnikova, Ph.D., from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, ensuring a collaborative approach to tackling the questions surrounding pyroCb phenomena.

This collaborative framework is critical for advancing the understanding of how these intense fire-driven events affect our climate.

FSJA Comment

The NRL’s new initiative under PYREX to study pyroCb and its effects on climate and wildfire behavior represents a strategic move towards better understanding the dynamics of wildfire smoke and its broader climatic implications.

The experiment is timely, considering the increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires globally, and the critical need for improved predictive capabilities.


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