NASA's MISR Instrument Sees California Wildfire Smoke Plumes From Space

by | Aug 25, 2021

NASA's MISR instrument captured smoke plumes from five fires burning in northern California. The highest plume reached about 19,685 feet (6,000 meters) in altitude. (Credit: NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL-Caltech, MISR Team)

As of Aug. 24, 2021, wildfires in Northern California”including the McCash, Antelope, River Complex, Monument and Dixie fires”have scorched more than 1 million acres of land. The Dixie Fire, the state's second-largest in history, accounts for 731,310 acres. On Aug. 18, 2021, NASA's Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument, aboard the Terra satellite, acquired new data showing smoke from these fires.

The MISR instrument has nine cameras that view Earth at different angles. The right side of the image shows smoke from the five fires as observed by MISR's nadir (downward-pointing) camera. The multi-angular information from MISR's images is used to calculate the height of the smoke plumes. The results of those calculations are shown in the left side of the image. Smoke from areas in red reached an altitude of around 9,840 feet (3,000 meters). The highest plume near the active fires reached approximately 19,685 feet (6,000 meters). In general, higher-altitude plumes transport smoke greater distances from the source, impacting communities downwind. In recent weeks, smoke from fires in the Western U.S. and Canada has impacted much of the East Coast.

The smoke plume height calculation was performed using the publicly available MISR INteractive eXplorer (MINX) software tool. The MISR Plume Height Project maintains a database of global smoke plume heights, accessible here.

 

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