Deadly natural gas explosion and fire in San Bruno, California

September 10th, 2010
GOES-11 / GOES-15 / GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR images

GOES-11 / GOES-15 / GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR images

A large natural gas explosion occurred in San Bruno, California on the evening of 09 September 2010, which killed 4 people and destroyed 38 homes. McIDAS images of GOES-11 (GOES-West), GOES-15, and GOES-13 (GOES-East) 3.9 µm shortwave IR channel data (above) showed the resulting fire “hot spots” (black to yellow color enhancement) during the 01:00 UTC to 04:00 UTC time period (6 pm to 9 pm local time).

The plot below shows that the maximum 3.9 µm shortwave IR pixel brightness temperatures were seen on the 01:15 UTC (6:15 pm local time) GOES-15 and GOES-13 images, and 30 minutes later at 01:45 UTC (6:45 pm local time) on the GOES-11 images.

Plot of GOES-11, GOES-15, and GOES-13 3.9 µm IR brightness temperatures

Plot of GOES-11, GOES-15, and GOES-13 3.9 µm IR brightness temperatures

A comparison of the 1-km resolution NOAA-16 AVHRR 3.7 µm and the 4-km resolution GOES-11 3.9 µm shortwave IR images (below) showed the fire hot spot (black pixels) around 02:00 UTC (7:00 pm local time). Note the more accurate placement of the fire hot spot on the AVHRR image — San Bruno is located more toward the eastern side of the San Francisco Peninsula.

NOAA-16 AVHRR 3.7 µm shortwave IR and GOES-11 3.9 µm shortwave IR images

NOAA-16 AVHRR 3.7 µm shortwave IR and GOES-11 3.9 µm shortwave IR images

AWIPS images of the 1-km resolution MODIS 3.7 µm shortwave IR channel and the 4-km resolution GOES-11 3.9 µm shortwave IR data around 06:00 UTC (11:00 pm local time) can be seen below. Although no fire hot spot was evident on the GOES-11 image, a small cluster of yellow pixels could still be seen on the MODIS image.

MODIS 3.7 µm shortwave IR and GOES-11 3.9 µm shortwave IR images

MODIS 3.7 µm shortwave IR and GOES-11 3.9 µm shortwave IR images

One Response to “Deadly natural gas explosion and fire in San Bruno, California”

  1. scott.bachmeier says:

    Blog reader Grace Peng commented via email:

    That’s very interesting.
    My mom lives 1-2 miles from the explosion and burn area.
    Fortunately, she lives downhill from the fire, and fire is a river that runs uphill.
    http://badmomgoodmom.blogspot.com/2007/03/fire-is-river-that-runs-uphill.html

    The explosion occurred west of Skyline Blvd and I-280, which run roughly
    along the spine of the peninsula (the ridge line), on the western edge of
    the San Andreas fault.

    It looks like the GOES-11,15 (east) saw the hot spot before GOES-11 (west).

    That would be consistent with the burn area moving upslope and westward from the initial blast zone.

    http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/goes/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/100910_g11_g15_g13_plot.001.jpg
    tells the whole story right there!

    I have to disagree w/ you and AVHRR. I think that San Bruno is on the western side of the peninsula and that part of San Bruno is pretty much in the middle. AVHRR places it too far west. OTOH, GOES-11 places it too far east-possibly due to terrain shadowing.

Leave a Reply