FIREX-AQ Opens in Salina

A massive joint collaboration studying the effects of fire and smoke on the earth and its inhabitants set up shop officially on Tuesday.

Hundreds of scientists and crew members with the Fire Influence on Regional to Global Environments and Air Quality, a joint mission between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, descended upon Salina to open up a new branch of research. They hosted their open house on Tuesday morning, explaining to the public their mission.

FIREX-AQ aims to study the effects of large and small natural fires emissions have on the earth’s atmosphere and human health.

The key cog to their research is Tuesday’s arrival of their primary laboratory, the DC-8 airplane that houses 0ver 40 scientists and crew members. The DC-8 allows scientists to fly in to smoke plumes of active fires and studying the emissions that the plum is producing.

Joshua Schwarz, Research Physicist for NOAA, says that FIREX-AQ will be studying many factors between wildfires and agricultural fires.


NASA and NOAA picked Salina as a project location due to several factors. One reason is Salina’s central location in the United States. Also, with the project’s base location in Boise, ID, Salina is much closer to the southern part of the United States. This allows researchers to spend less time traveling and more time studying fires in the southeastern portion of the country which are generally much smaller than the larger wildfires in the western-third of the US.

The Salina-based leg will also allow researchers to be focusing on smoke plumes from agricultural and prescribed fires in the south and southeast to better understand their composition and effects on air quality.


FIREX-AQ will utilize several assets of study in the project including ground crews (actually studying fires from the ground), several different airplanes–including the DC-8–and satellite imagery.

The project will host over 300 researchers from all over the world.