July 4, 2012

Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups through the Rockies

The fires in Colorado and Montana are making breathing difficult in these states. The warning from AIRNOW and EPA states that if you cannot see horizontally more than 5 km, you can assume that the air is unhealthy to breath for the elderly and people who have respiratory problems. As of this afternoon, the NREL sensor in Golden reported ozone levels at 105 ppb (Boulder and Rocky Flats over 90 ppb) so the combination of ozone precursors, smoke and sunlight are making air quality problems all along the front range (left). Aerosol optical depth is broadly near unity values from Colorado through Montana, North and South Dakota, and as far east as Minnesota, Wisconsin and Lake Michigan (right). Interestingly, there is a streak of elevated AOD from Oregon through Alberta and it may be that this is Asian smoke.

The GOES satellite reveals the southward motion of the smoke from Montana (left). Earlier today Rene Sevranckx of Environment Canada sent along imagery showing that the Ash Creek fire in Montana launched pyroCb plumes to temperatures of -50C (as high as 11-12 kilometers). This smoke will travel long distances (right). We received an email from Chuck Bushey that noted that the pyroCb was driven by strong wind gust at a 104F surface temperature. The fire grew 57,000 acres in one day. This sounds like a literal hell.

VIIRS has observed and ECMWF MACC forecasts for the next week shows that major emissions of smoke from the lee of the Ural Mountains in Russia will be moving eastward. By July 6, a pulse of smoke from Asia should be off the west coast north of Oregon up through Alaska (below right).

The high reading in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley is driven by a 216 AQI (from PM2.5) in Hanford California. This is probably an error as the time series of PM2.5 for the valley shows that the PM2.5 is not over 35 µg m-3.

UPDATE: (7/5/12) A message received this morning from Rene Sevranckx and Mike Fromm confirms that this streamer of smoke is from Asia. Their explanation:

SHORT STORY: We believe that it is a smoke cloud that originated from one or more pyrocb in Russia around 30 June / 1 July. This cloud is just the leading edge of bigger and thicker smoke plumes to follow over the next few days, based on the AI imagery and the CALIPSO curtain showing more smoke to the west. See also the 5 July 0600 UTC imagery on http://eer.cmc.ec.gc.ca/people/Rene/pyrocb2012/western_Canada/20120704_UTLS/ and http://lance-modis.eosdis.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/imagery/single.cgi?image=crefl1_143.A2012187083000-2012187083500.2km.jpg .

LONG STORY: Here's the best CALIPSO cut so far, of the smoke cloud (4 July nitetime orbit). Around ~48N, the plume is ~10 km.


Here are back trajectories from that feature, going back 1 week:

On the adjacent orbit to the west, a fuller picture is revealed. Lots of smoke at 40-50N, from the PBL to 11 km.

GOME 2 AI maps going back in time, from 4 to 1 July, show the plume drifting across the Pacific.
4 July

3 July

2 July

1 July

The AI sequence suggests that between 30 June and 1 July some kind of big blowup occurred in E Asia (Russia).

This MODIS granule shows some large fires, thick fanning plumes coming from them, and a cold front bearing down on the whole scene.


Note that there are actually two clumps of fire activity in far eastern Russia, one northwest of the Sea of Okhotsk and another southwest of the sea. The trajectories put both areas in play.

Here is a MODIS shot on 29 June, when the skies were clear over both fire areas: http://lance-modis.eosdis.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/imagery/single.cgi?image=crefl1_143.A2012181024500-2012181025000.2km.jpg

Our guess is that there was one or more blowups of some kind after the A-Train overpass that day. The trajectories shown above cross right over this area between 30 June and 1 July. If not that day, perhaps the day before or day after. But something big occurred to create the long-distance transport and Upper Troposphere / Lower Stratosphere plume.

Posted by Ray Hoff at July 4, 2012 8:03 PM

Nice post! Yesterday, a little girl asked why the Moon appeared red at the fireworks festival. I was able to explain it to her [my daughter on the other hand didn't care so much for the why instead she was more focused on how pretty it looked :)] -SmogBlog Fan

Posted by: N.George at July 5, 2012 5:26 PM

You had better be able to explain light scattering, Ms George, or we wasted a lot of your time in school (:-)

Posted by: Ray Hoff at July 6, 2012 12:31 PM

Very informative about where the fires are affecting and how much ozone is in the atmosphere. The graphics help to depict where the smoke clouds are at and where they are headed, giving us a heads-up in case we are in the area. This is extremely harmful for people with respiratory problems and those of us who work at senior homes in the area are going to be cautious of the situation.

Posted by: Doris Jenkins, Visiting Angels at July 6, 2012 12:40 PM

This smoke filament could also seen on MODIS 1.375 ┬Ám near-IR "cirrus detection channel" images (since that wavelength is sensitive to particles that are effective scatterers of light): http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/goes/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/120704_modis_cirrus_smoke_plume_anim.gif

Posted by: Scott Bachmeier at July 8, 2012 6:31 PM
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