US Forest Service Research & Development
Contact Information
  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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Shawn P. Urbanski

Research Physical Scientist
5775 US West Highway 10
United States

Phone: 406-329-4829
Contact Shawn P. Urbanski

Current Research

  • Airborne and ground based field experiments for the validation of smoke dispersion models and atmospheric chemistry transport models
  • Laboratory and field experiments characterizing the gas and aerosol emissions from wildfires and prescribed burning
  • Development of satellite based wildfire emission inventories for the western United States
  • Development and implementation of a forest carbon management framework (ForCaMF)
  • Evaluation of fire emission
  • Smoke dispersion modeling systems

Research Interests

I am completing a comprehensive fire emission inventory for the western U.S. This inventory is being developed using a "bottom-up" emission model with carefully characterized uncertainties. Upon completion, this fire emission inventory will provide input for air quality models. I plan on collecting airborne field observations of smoke emissions and dispersion for wildfires and using these measurements in time-inverted lagrangian transport modeling studies to provide quantitative "top-down" constraints on the magnitude and variability of fire emissions. This research will validate the "bottom-up" fire emission inventory methods that are used to forecast and evaluate the impact of fires on air quality, regional haze, and climate.

Past Research

Biomass fires are the second largest source of trace gases and the largest source of fine carbonaceous particles in the global atmosphere. Wildland fires produce criteria pollutants (carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), and fine particulate matter (PM2.5)), greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4)), and short-lived climate forcing organic aerosols (OA) and black carbon particulates (BC). The health impacts of O3 and PM2.5 include decreased lung function, aggravate symptoms and increased emergency room visits for asthmatics, hospitalizations for worsened heart diseases, and premature death. Dense smoke can create hazardous conditions by obscuring visibility on roadways and at airports leading to the disruption of transportation and economic activities, and even trigger automobile accident resulting in injuries and fatalities. Regional haze resulting from smoke emissions and long-range transport can degrade visibility in National Parks, National Forests, and wilderness area. My research is important because it provides land managers and air quality regulators with the scientific knowledge needed to minimize and mitigate the impacts of fire emissions on human health, economic activity, scenic integrity, and ecosystem resiliency.

Why This Research is Important

  • Development of satellite-based methods for mapping burned areas
  • Determination of specific emission factors for biomass burning in different ecosystems
  • Observational and modeling studies of forest carbon exchange
  • Development of instruments for the high-precision measurement of atmospheric trace gases
  • Laboratory investigation of the atmospheric oxidation of dimethylsulfide


  • University of Oklahoma, B.S. Meteorology 1993

Featured Publications & Products


Research Highlights


Improved Air-Quality Models Help Land Managers and Regulators

New research helps reduce the effects of wildfire emissions on human health, economic activity, and scenic integrity


Last updated on : 03/11/2019