Wildfires continue in the interior of Alaska

July 25th, 2015

GOES-15 visible (top) and shortwave IR (bottom) images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 visible (top) and shortwave IR (bottom) images [click to play animation]

Wildfires continued to burn across parts of the interior of Alaska during the 22-25 July 2015 period, as is shown in GOES-15 (GOES-West) 0.63 µm visible channel and 3.9 µm shortwave IR images (above; click to play animation; also available as an MP4 movie file). Also of interest is: (1) the diurnal change of intensity and areal coverage of the fire hot spots (darker black to red pixels on the shortwave IR images), with the fires dying down at night, and (2) the change in direction of smoke transport, from westward on 22 July to eastward on 24 July. The switch in smoke transport direction was the result of changing winds associated with a broad area of low pressure moving across Alaska during that period (surface analyses).

A more detailed view of the fire hot spots was provided by 375-meter resolution (mapped onto a 1-km AWIPS grid) Suomi NPP VIIRS 3.74 µm shortwave IR images (below; click to play animation).

Suomi NPP VIIRS shortwave IR images [click to play animation]

Suomi NPP VIIRS shortwave IR images [click to play animation]

Many of the fires were burning in the general vicinity of the Utopia Creek, Indian Mountain airport (station identifier PAIM); a time series of surface observation from that site (below) showed that visibility was 1 mile or less due to smoke at times on 25 July.

Time series of surface observation from Utopia Creek, Indian Mountain airport [click to enlarge]

Time series of surface observation from Utopia Creek, Indian Mountain airport [click to enlarge]

Daily composites of Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images viewed using the SSEC RealEarth web map server are shown below.

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color images [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color images [click to enlarge]

Wildfire smoke: from Alaska to Norway, via the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans

July 18th, 2015

Meteosat-10 0.8 µm visible channel images [click to play animation]

Meteosat-10 0.8 µm visible channel images [click to play animation]

EUMETSAT Meteosat-10 High Resolution Visible (0.8 µm) images (above; click to play animation; also available as an MP4 movie file) revealed the hazy signature of what appeared to be a ribbon of smoke aloft being transported eastward across the North Atlantic Ocean by the circulation of a large area of low pressure (surface | 500 hPa) on 17 July 2015. Early in the day, the smoke feature stretched from the east coast of Greenland to the central Atlantic Ocean; by the end of the day, the leading edge of the smoke had moved over the British Isles and was headed toward Scandinavia.

A portion of the smoke plume could be seen on Aqua MODIS and Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images (below) as it was approaching the southern portion of Great Britain.

Aqua MODIS and Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color images [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS and Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color images [click to enlarge]

On the following morning, Meteosat-10 visible images (below; click to play animation) showed that the leading edge of the smoke ribbon was moving over southern Norway.

Meteosat-10 0.8 µm visible channel images [click to play animation]

Meteosat-10 0.8 µm visible channel images [click to play animation]

The transport pathway of this smoke feature was rather interesting, as we shall explore with the following sets of images.

Suomi NPP VIIIRS 3.74 µm shortwave IR and 0.64 µm visible images on 06 July [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIIRS 3.74 µm shortwave IR and 0.64 µm visible images on 06 July [click to enlarge]

The 2015 wildfire season in Alaska had been very active — as of 17 July, it was rated as the 4th worst in terms of total acreage burned. In early July, numerous wildfires burning across the interior of Alaska were producing a large amount of smoke, as can be seen in a comparison of of Suomi NPP VIIRS 3.74 µm shortwave IR and 0.64 µm visible channel images at 2131 and 2312 UTC on 06 July (above). The thermal signature of the wildfire “hot spots” showed up as yellow to red to black pixels on the 2 shortwave IR images, while the widespread smoke plumes from the fires are evident on the 2 visible images; even in the relatively short 101 minutes separating the two sets of VIIRS images, notable changes in fire activity could be seen.

Looking a bit farther to the north and west, a sequence of VIIRS 0.64 µm visible images centered over Cape Lisburne (station identifier PALU) in northwestern Alaska covering a 2-day period from 06 to 08 July (below) showed the initial transport of large amounts of smoke from the interior of Alaska northwestward over the Chukchi Sea between Alaska and Russia.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel images covering the 06-08 July period [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel images covering the 06-08 July period [click to enlarge]

Daily composites of Suomi NPP OMPS Aerosol Index covering the period of 04-17 July (below; courtesy of Colin Seftor; see his OMPS Blog post) showed the strong signal of this dense Alaskan smoke (denoted by the red arrows) as it moved from east to west over the far southern Arctic Ocean and along the far northern coast of Russia from 06-10 July. The Aerosol Index signal seemed to stall north of Scandinavia on 12-13 July, but then a small portion began to move toward Iceland and Greenland on 13-15 July around the periphery of a large upper-level low (500 hPa analyses). Finally, some of this smoke was then transported eastward across the Atlantic Ocean around the southern periphery of this upper-level low on 17 July, as was seen on the Meteosat-10 visible images at the beginning of this blog post.

Suomi NPP OMPS Aerosol Index images, covering the period 04-17 July [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP OMPS Aerosol Index images, covering the period 04-17 July [click to enlarge]

CALIOP lidar data from the CALIPSO satellite (below) showed the vertical distribution of the Alaskan smoke over and off the coast of northern Norway on 11 July. The signal of the smoke was located in the center portion of the images; while there appeared to be some smoke at various altitudes within the middle to upper troposphere, a significant amount of smoke was seen in the lower stratosphere in the 10-12 km altitude range.

CALIPSO CALIOP lidar data showing the smoke over northern Norway on 11 July [click to enlarge]

CALIPSO CALIOP lidar data showing the smoke over northern Norway on 11 July [click to enlarge]

Ice motion in the Chukchi Sea

December 9th, 2014
Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images (click to play animation)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images (click to play animation)

AWIPS II images of Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band data covering the 05 December – 09 December 2014 period (above; click image to play animation; also available as an MP4 movie file) revealed a fairly abrupt increase in the southwesterly motion of drift ice in the Chukchi Sea (off the northwest coast of Alaska), with giant ice floes beginning to break away north of Barrow (station identifier PABR) on 08 December. Although the northern half of the satellite scene saw little to no sunlight during this time, abundant illumination from the Moon (in the Waning Gibbous phase, at 82% of full) helped to demonstrate the “visible image at night” capability of the VIIRS Day/Night Band.

This change in ice motion was caused by an increase in northeasterly wind over that region, in response to a tightening pressure gradient between a 1040 hPa high pressure centered north of Siberia and a 958 hPa low pressure centered south of Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska (below). The strong winds were also creating the potential for heavy freezing spray over the open waters north and south of the Bering Strait.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image, with surface analysis

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image, with surface analysis

Along the northwest coast of Alaska, northeasterly winds at Point Hope (station identifier PAPO) gusted as high as 62 knots or 71 mph on 09 December (below). Not far to the north at Cape Lisburne (PALU), the peak wind gust was 39 knots or 45 mph.

Point Hope, Alaska meteorogram

Point Hope, Alaska meteorogram

Re-suspended volcanic ash from the Novarupta volcano in Alaska

September 29th, 2014
GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

McIDAS images of GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel data (above; click image to play animation) showed the hazy signature of a plume of re-suspended volcanic ash originating from the region of the Novarupta volcano in Alaska, moving southeastward over the Shelikof Strait toward Kodiak Island on 29 September 2014. The 1912 eruption of Novarupta left a very deep deposit of volcanic ash, which often gets lofted by strong winds in the early Autumn months before snowfall covers the ash (another example occurred on 22 September 2013). Surface winds gusted as high as 30 knots at regional reporting stations, with numerical models estimating terrain-enhanced winds as high as 40-50 knots over the Novarupta ash field.

An AWIPS II image of POES AVHRR 0.86 µm visible channel data (below) showed the ash plume at 22:46 UTC; a pilot report at 22:45 UTC indicated that the top of the ash plume was between 4000 and 6000 feet above ground level.

POES AVHRR 0.86 µm visible channel image, with METAR surface reports and Pilot reports (PIREPs)

POES AVHRR 0.86 µm visible channel image, with METAR surface reports and Pilot reports (PIREPs)

A sequence of 3 Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images from the SSEC RealEarth web map server (below) indicated that the re-suspended ash plume had been increasing in areal extent during that period.

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color images from 27, 28, and 29 September

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color images from 27, 28, and 29 September

A sequence of 4-panel products from the NOAA/CIMSS Volcanic Cloud Monitoring site (below) shows False-color images, Ash/dust cloud height, Ash/dust particle effective radius, and Ash/dust loading (derived from either Terra/Aqua MODIS or Suomi NPP VIIRS data).

4-panel MODIS/VIIRS products: False color image; Ash/dust cloud height; Ash/dust particle effective radius; Ash/dust loading

4-panel MODIS/VIIRS products: False color image; Ash/dust cloud height; Ash/dust particle effective radius; Ash/dust loading

Hat tip to Mark Ruminski (NOAA/NESDIS) for alerting us to this event.