Chemical plant fire near Houston, Texas

March 18th, 2019 |

GOES-16 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 (GOES-East) Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images (above) revealed the thermal anomaly or “hot spot” of a fire burning at the Intercontinental Terminals Company petrochemical plant in Deer Park, Texas on 18 March 2019. Although the thermal signature was often partially masked by the passage of high clouds overhead, it was still evident for much of the time period (0202-1457 UTC, or 9:02pm-9:57am CDT). The fire started around 1530 UTC (10:30am CDT) on 17 March.

Comparisons of 2-km resolution (at satellite subpoint) GOES-16 Shortwave Infrared and 375-meter resolution VIIRS Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) imagery from Suomi NPP (at 0741 UTC) and NOAA-20 (at 0835 UTC) are shown below. The thermal signature is better defined and more accurately located using the higher-resolution VIIRS imagery.

Shortwave Infrared images from Suomi NPP VIIRS (3.74 µm) and GOES-16 (3.9 µm) at 0741 UTC [click to enlarge]

Shortwave Infrared images from Suomi NPP VIIRS (3.74 µm) and GOES-16 (3.9 µm) at 0741 UTC [click to enlarge]

Shortwave Infrared images from NOAA-20 VIIRS (3.74 µm) and GOES-16 (3.9 µm) at 0835 UTC [click to enlarge]

Shortwave Infrared images from NOAA-20 VIIRS (3.74 µm) and GOES-16 (3.9 µm) at 0835 UTC [click to enlarge]

A comparison of 1-km resolution NOAA-19 AVHRR and 2-km resolution GOES-16 Shortwave Infrared images at 1132 UTC is shown below. This happened to be at a time when the GOES-16 thermal signature was being masked by high clouds overhead. The fire was located northeast of the Houston Hobby (station identifier KHOU) and Ellington (station identifier KEFD) airports.

Shortwave Infrared images from NOAA-19 (3.7 µm) and GOES-16 (3.9 µm) at 1132 UTC [click to enlarge]

Shortwave Infrared images from NOAA-19 (3.7 µm) and GOES-16 (3.9 µm) at 1132 UTC [click to enlarge]

In a sequence of GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm), Near-Infrared “Vegetation” (0.86 µm) and Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm) images (below), the dark-colored smoke plume was most obvious in the Near-Infrared imagery — this is due to the fact that vegetation is more reflective at those wavelengths, helping to enhance the smoke/surface contrast. The smoke had drifted as far westward as Austin and Kerrville, a distance of over 100 miles.

GOES-16 "Red" Visible (0.64 µm), Near-Infrared "Vegetation" (0.86 µm) and Near-Infrared "Snow/Ice" (1.61 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm), Near-Infrared “Vegetation” (0.86 µm) and Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

===== 19 March Update =====

GOES-16 "Red" Visible (0.64 µm), Near-Infrared "Vegetation" (0.86 µm), and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm), Near-Infrared “Vegetation” (0.86 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

The Deer Park Fire continued to burn uncontrolled on 19 March — 1-minute Mesoscale Domain Sector GOES-16 Visible, Near-Infrared and Shortwave Infrared images (above) showed that while the passage of mid/upper-level clouds often obscured the dark-colored smoke plume, a signature of the hot thermal anomaly was seen almost continuously. Note that the color enhancement applied to the Shortwave Infrared imagery is different from the one used in the 18 March examples.

===== 22 March Update =====

GOES-16 "Red" Visible (0.64 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm), Near-Infrared “Vegetation” (0.86 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

There was a brief re-ignition of the fire that began at 2035 UTC on 22 March, as shown by 1-minute GOES-16 Visible, Near-Infrared and Shortwave Infrared images (above). The thermal anomaly of the fire was only apparent for about 50 minutes — reaching a peak infrared brightness temperature of 48.4ºC at 2044 UTC — while the dark smoke continued to spread to cover a north-south distance of over 10 miles in 90 minutes, moving over Interstate 10 and the cities of Channelview and Highlands.

Leave a Reply