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Researchers studying the chemistry of wildfire smoke first-hand

Researchers from across the country are in Boise to study smoke from wildfires by flying aircraft into the smoke and measuring it in real time.

The largest, most comprehensive attempt at measuring and analyzing smoke from wildfires is happening in Boise.

A multi-agency, multi-disciplinary team is studying the wildfire smoke by flying two aircraft into it, then measuring the smoke in real time.

The project is called the "Western Wildfire Experiment For Cloud Chemistry, Aerosol Absorption And Nitrogen" (WE-CAN).

It's funded by the National Science Foundation.

Scientists and professors from five different universities are flying into the smoke produced from the fires in hopes of understanding the chemistry of the smoke.

"Our goal is to understand what does that smoke do to the air quality, how does that impact people's health and how does it impact the weather," said Shane Murphy, assistant professor at the University of Wyoming.

Boise is the perfect location for the smoke study because there is only enough fuel in the planes to travel for six hours at a time.

"We had to pick a place within a two-hour transit time where we could sample a variety of different wildfires, and Boise is such a place. From here we can access Washington, we can access Oregon. We were sampling the major fires in Northern California and we were sampling Idaho and Utah," said Emily Fischer, assistant professor in the department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University.

So far, researchers have conducted nine flights.

They will be in Boise until August 31.

Preliminary results from the project are expected in the next few months, but the data will take about a year to finalize.

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