April 15, 2014

Moderate AQI across the Southwestern U.S. Concentrated Fires Great Plains.

Moderate air quality across the Pacific Southwest, Southeast, Plains States, and Rocky Mountain States, with areas of Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups in western South Carolina and southern California, as seen in the EPA Airnow loop below left. HMS imagery, below right, shows fires around the patches in the Great Plains and Florida, as well as smoke plumes off the Texas coast and the Yucatan Peninsula.

Unfortunately, the forecast shows the wind coming from the southeast by tomorrow afternoon, bringing the Texas plumes back over land.

The NRL NAAPS model, below left, indicates elevated sulfate in the southeast and dust in the southwest and Plains as potential culprits for the sub-optimal AQI there. OMI tropospheric NO2 points to nitrates as a possibly more convincing candidate for the cause of the Moderate AQI in the southwest.

April 14, 2014

Scattered PM2.5 across the United States; Large Swath of Smoke in Gulf

Scattered Code Yellow (Moderate) PM2.5 was observed today across the United States. The highest levels, Code Orange (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups) levels were observed in the Southeast, across eastern Tennessee and wester South Carolina (top left). Continuing with the trend in posts, the HMS analysis team indicated several fires in the United States today, mainly concentrated in the Southeast, Southern Plains and Pacific Northwest states (top right). Copious amounts of fires were observed across the Yucatan Peninsula, and a huge swath of smoke associated with this activity is currently situated over the Gulf of Mexico. Today's aerosol optical depth (AOD) imagery from the MODIS overpass onboard the Terra satellite, detected the smoke, indicated elevated AOD throughout the Gulf as well as NRL's NAAPS aerosol model (bottom).

April 12, 2014

Weekend Edition: Spring fire season is on in Oklahoma and Georgia

In the spring of every year, fire clusters break out in Kansas and Oklahoma and in the US southeast. While some of these can be lightning generated, burning of fields which can get out of control can also be a cause. The USFS Large Incident page has classified fires of over 100 acres in size in forests and over 300 acres of grass fires. These clusters are showing up on satellite imagery. A wide angle view of the southeast shows the fire hotspots over the daytime hours of Saturday in Georgia and Alabama (left) and zoomed in around Atlanta with roads superimposed to make the location of the fires more obvious.

In Oklahoma, the large number of wildfires has narrowed to about a half dozen fire hotspots on MODIS thermal channels. The hazy image is not just smoke, however, as there is an overlaying layer of cirrus cloud. On the right below, the AIRNOW AQI loop is shown and indicates moderate air quality is seen over much of the southeast. The AQI reaches unhealthy for sensitive groups in Nebraska today and that is likely from transported smoke.

Update: April 13, 2014 19:30 EDT

Code Orange (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups) readings were seen on Sunday in South Carolina and in Oregon for a brief period overnight. The South Carolina readings are likely due to the fires burning in the Appalachians in the very west of the State.

In Oklahoma, the large incident fires of sizes ranging from 300-600 acres is raising the Aerosol Optical Depth seen in the AQUA MODIS readings on Sunday (left). On the right below, the areas with moderate AQI for aerosols are aligned along major traffic routes in the state (LA, SF, and Sacramento). People are on the move for Easter week and spring break.

April 11, 2014

Smoke from Central Plains fires affecting air quality in KS/OK/TX

Looking at the NOAA HMS Smoke and Fire Product (top left), the small red dots indicate currently burning fires, while the grey area spanning into Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas is a thin plume of smoke originating from the agricultural fires burning in the Central Plains. This plume is moving south-southwest, however, so it does not explain the elevated AOD values seen by MODIS Aqua (top right) in the Southeast, where a small amount of fires were seen as well.

The NAAPS model projection (bottom left) details increased sulfate levels for much of the East, and this combined with the burning fires could be attributing to the high AODs seen in the Southeast. The EPA AIRNow combined AQI loop (bottom right) illustrates moderate AQIs popping up across the United States, including Southern California, the Southeast, and the Kansas/Oklahoma/Texas area corresponding to the smoke plume seen by the HMS. Unhealthy levels were even seen in Oklahoma earlier today, and Wichita, KS has a current AQI of 116, made up almost entirely of ozone. Thus, the smoke plumes in this area is negatively affecting air quality, and if the fires in the Central Plains continue at the same pace, one can expect this air quality trend to continue.

April 10, 2014

Good AQI; light smoke from numerous fires

Good air quality conditions were experienced today throughout the nation. Moderate PM2.5 levels slowly spread over different stations reaching the highest coverage at about 7PM EDT (top left). HMS indicated that a plume of sulfates was visible off the coast of North Carolina moving southeast and continued to drift offshore until sunset. It is likely that the unknown aerosol is a mixture of remnant smoke originating from the numerous agricultural burns that have been taking place in the Southeast and Southern Plains over the past week (top right). Moreover, bands of blowing dust were visible over much of the Pacific Northwest. Blowing dust from Asia is visible arriving over Northern California, Oregon, and Washington state and continued until sunset. AOD retrievals by MODIS detected high aerosol loadings in the plain states (bottom).

Special Feature: Heartbleed impact on alg.umbc.edu

For those who use alg.umbc.edu, you probably access this site by unsecured http: access. For our blogging team, we use https: access to post on the site. We appear to be unaffected at this point by the Heartbleed exploit but we will be revising our SSL protocols as advised by OIT.

April 9, 2014

Agricultural Fires Cause of High AOD over the Mississippi Valley States, Kansas and Oklahoma

The high AOD retrievals (top left image), from NASA's MODIS sensor in Aqua, over the Kansas-Oklahoma border and the Mississippi Valley States is from remnant smoke from agricultural fires over this region. Smoke from the Kansas-Oklahoma agricultural fires is visible in today's MODIS "true color" RGB image (top right). Optical, ground based, sun-photometer AOD taken at the CART site in Oklahoma show how coarse particles are heavily influencing the AOD retrieval has the day progressed.

Ozone concentrations reached Moderate AQI levels (Code Yellow), as shown in today's Airnow Ozone AQI animation, in California, Mid-Atlantic and southern Great Plains states.