Smoke Goes Global
Fiery sunset from western fires SLC Utah, 9-7-2020 (credit: SWP Media)
Smoke from the massive fires in California and elsewhere on the West Coast might become global. It has happened before. In late summer 2018, satellite imagery showed smoke being carried north towards the polar regions to reach Europe. The fires now raging along the West Coast are even more extensive. The visible light and infrared imagers on NASA's polar-orbiting Suomi NPP satellite viewed black carbon smoke in 2018 hovering over much of western USA and central Canada. It was then carried north by the jet stream. However, similar views captured by NOAA satellites show this year's dense smoke moving westwards.
Black carbon smoke over USA & Canadian in Visible and Infrared Light, 8-15-2018 (credit: NASA-NOAA)
Black carbon smoke from western fires, 9-8-2020 & 9-9-2020 (credit: NASA-NOAA)
Black carbon, soot, is produced from the incomplete burning of dry or dead vegetation and coal. The images visualize the 'global' nature of this air pollution and major health hazard. The Australian independent media group, the Conversation, discussed the dangers from extended breathing of particulate matter-filled smoke. PM 2.5 concentrations were 'very unhealthy' to 'hazardous' in 2018 and will likely be again this year.
As climate change continues amplifying drought, aridity, and other weather events, expect more and more of such environmental images to appear from these Earth monitoring satellites.