Lower North Fork Fire in Colorado

March 27th, 2012 |
GOES-15 + GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images

GOES-15 + GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images

The “Lower North Fork Fire” near Aspen Park, Colorado began during the afternoon hours on 26 March 2012 and rapidly expanded to over 4100 acres in size. 2 fatalities resulted from this fire, with over 900 homes being evacuated and at least 27 homes damaged or destroyed. The combination of strong southwesterly winds (gusting in the 35-50 mph range) and very dry air (relative humidity values around 10%) created an environment that was favorable for rapid wildfire growth. A comparison of McIDAS images of GOES-15 (GOES-West) and GOES-13 (GOES-East) 0.63 µm visible channel data (above) showed the development of a large smoke plume with embedded pyrocumulus clouds.

The corresponding series of GOES-15 and GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR images (below) revealed how quickly the fire “hot spot” (black to yellow to red color enhancement) grew in size.

GOES-15 + GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR images

GOES-15 + GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR images

An AWIPS comparison of a 1-km resolution POES AVHRR 3.7 µm shortwave IR image with the corresponding 4-km resolution GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR image just after 02 UTC or 8 pm local time  (below) demonstrated the advantage of higher spatial resolution for more accurately identifying the location and areal coverage of the fire.

POES AVHRR 3.7 µm + GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR images

POES AVHRR 3.7 µm + GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR images

A larger scale HD-format view of GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (below; click image to play animation) revealed other interesting features across the region, such as (1) a large blowing dust plume oriented from southwest to northeast across Colorado, (2) a terrain-induced standing wave cloud over southwestern Colorado, (3) the development of a line of thunderstorms across eastern Wyoming, and (4) another smaller blowing dust plume across eastern Idaho. Animated GIF courtesy of Tim Schmit, NOAA/ASPB/CIMSS.

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)