Since at least the 1980s, many farmers in northwest India have switched to mechanized combine harvesting to boost efficiency. This harvesting technique leaves abundant crop residue on the fields, which farmers typically burn to prepare their fields for subsequent planting. A key question is to what extent the large quantity of smoke emitted by these fires contributes to the already severe pollution in Delhi and across other parts of the heavily populated Indo-Gangetic Plain located downwind of the fires.

Wildfires are anticipated to be more frequent and intense under climate change. As a result, wildfires may emit more air pollutants that can harm health in communities in the future. The health impacts of wildfire smoke under climate change are largely unknown.

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