October 29 | 2018

A machine learning approach to estimate hourly exposure to fine particulate matter for urban, rural, and remote populations during wildfire seasons. 

Yao J, Brauer M, Raffuse SM, Henderson S.

Environ Sci Technol. 2018 Oct 24. Epub ahead of print] DOI:10.1021/acs.est.8b01921


Exposure to wildfire smoke averaged over 24-hour periods has been associated with a wide range of acute cardiopulmonary events, but little is known about the effects of sub-daily exposures immediately preceding these events. One challenge for studying sub-daily effects is the lack of spatially and temporally resolved estimates of smoke exposures. Inexpensive and globally applicable tools to reliably estimate exposure are needed. Here we describe a Random Forests machine learning approach to estimate 1-hour average population exposure to fine particulate matter during wildfire seasons from 2010 to 2015 in British Columbia, Canada, at a 5km by 5km resolution. The model uses remotely sensed fire activity, meteorology assimilated from multiple data sources, and geographic/ecological information. Compared with observations, model predictions had a correlation of 0.93, root mean squared error of 3.2 µg/m3, mean fractional bias of 15.1%, and mean fractional error of 44.7%. Spatial cross-validation indicated an overall correlation of 0.60, with an interquartile range from 0.48 to 0.70 across monitors. This model can be adapted for global use, even in locations without air quality monitoring. It is useful for epidemiologic studies on sub-daily exposure to wildfire smoke, and for informing public health actions if operationalized in near-real-time.