Satellite signatures of the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion

April 18th, 2013 |
GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR image

GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR image

A powerful and deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in the city of West, Texas occurred on the evening of 17 April 2013. A thinning of the layered cloudiness across the region allowed the 4-km resolution GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR channel image (above) to reveal a subtle “hot spot” (yellow color enhancement) signature of the large fire that burned into the night.

Shown below is a comparison of  images from the Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band (DNB) at 08:00 UTC or 3:00 AM local time on 17 April (the night before the explosion) and 07:41 UTC or 2:41 AM local time on 18 April (the night after the explosion). The 18 April DNB image appears to display a brighter signal in the West, Texas area (circled), although it is unclear whether this brighter signal on the later Day/Night Band image is due to the fire, or the large amount of emergency response activity, or some combination of the two factors. The presence of optically-thick cloud layers across the region may also be playing a role in the apparent West, Texas brightness differences sensed by the DNB detectors; this effect is very notable in the city light signature of the Dallas/Ft.Worth area in the upper center portion of the 2 images.

 

Night-time Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band images on 17 April and 18 April

Night-time Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band images on 17 April and 18 April

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