Wildfire in North Carolina

June 7th, 2008 |

MODIS visible + shortwave IR images (Animated GIF)

AWIPS images of the MODIS visible and 3.7 µm shortwave IR channels (above) showed smoke and a “hot spot” associated with a large wildfire that had burned over 30,000 acres in the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina on 07 June 2008.

The fire was started by lightning about a week earlier — an animation of MODIS true color images (below) revealed the changing shape and direction of the smoke plume during the 02-07 June period. At times the smoke was causing air quality problems as it drifted northward over the urban areas of southeastern Virginia — note the elevated MODIS Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) values that had spread northward across southeastern Virginia on 06 June.

MODIS true color images (Animated GIF)

A closer view using 250-meter resolution MODIS true color imagery on from the SSEC MODIS Today site (below) shows the thick smoke drifting southeastward across the Outer Banks of North Carolina, then dispersing over the waters of the Atlantic Ocean on 07 June. Note the appearance of small pyrocumulus clouds that had formed over the hottest portions of the fire area, which cast a small shadow onto the smoke plume located below the cloud tops.

MODIS true color image

It was quite warm across the mid-Atlantic region on 07 June, which worsened the already-favorable fire conditions – the MODIS Land Surface Temperature (LST) product (below) indicated widespread LST values of 100-120º F (darker red colors) around 18 UTC (2 PM local time). Surface air temperatures reached 100º F at a few locations in southeastern Virginia (the 101º F at Norfolk and the 100º F at Richmond were record highs for the date).

MODIS Land Surface Temperature product

UPDATE #1: A MODIS Sea Surface Temperature (SST) image from 09 June (below) showed that the water temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay had risen to unusually high values (upper 70s to low 80s F) for early June, as a result of several consecutive days of record or near-record high temperatures. Note that the MODIS SST values in Chesapeake Bay were significantly warmer than those suggested by the High Resolution RTG_SST model analysis.

MODIS Sea Surface Temperature (SST) image

UPDATE #2: The large Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge fire continued to burn on 13 June, while another fire had started in the Great Dismal Swamp area along the North Carolina/Virginia border. With an easterly flow present, the smoke plumes were now drifting inland toward the west, as seen on GOES-12 visible images (below). A significant amount of smoke had drifted inland across central North Carolina on the previous day (12 June), and was dense enough to restrict surface visibility to 1/2 mile as far to the west as Raleigh; that smoke pall remained thick enough on 13 June to apparently have the effect of inhibiting the formation of cumulus clouds (by reducing the amount of surface heating).

GOES-12 visible images (Animated GIF)

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