Fires in the southeast United States

November 7th, 2016 |
terramodis_truecolor_7nov2016

Terra MODIS True-Color Imagery over the Smoky Mountains, 7 November 2016 (Click to enlarge)

Persistent moderate to severe drought (shown here, from this site) over the southeastern United States has supported the development of fires in and around the Great Smoky Mountains on 7 November 2016. True-color imagery from Terra MODIS, above, (source: MODIS Today) showed the active fires and plumes of smoke spreading northward into the Ohio River Valley.

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color imagery also captured the smoke emanating from the active fires, and the Aerosol Optical Depth product, toggled below (data sources: RealEarth) showed the extent of the thickest smoke layer (click here for an animation that does not include the RealEarth framing).

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color image with fire detection locations (red dots), and VIIRS Aerosol Optical Depth product [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color image with fire detection locations (red dots), and VIIRS Aerosol Optical Depth product [click to enlarge]

A sequence of true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images from Terra MODIS (1643 UTC), Suomi NPP VIIRS (1809 UTC) and Aqua MODIS (1824 UTC) is shown below.

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

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

The temporal evolution of the smoke was captured on GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images (below; also available as an MP4 animation). Smoke reduced the surface visibility to 2.5 – 3.0 miles at some locations in Kentucky (KJKL | KLOZ) and Tennessee (KOQT), leading to EPA Air Quality Index values in the “Unhealthy” category.

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images; hourly surface weather symbols are plotted in yellow, with surface visibility (statute miles) plotted in cyan [click to play animation]

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images; hourly surface weather symbols are plotted in yellow, with surface visibility (statute miles) plotted in cyan [click to play animation]

===== 10 November Update =====

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images; hourly surface weather symbols are plotted in yellow, with surface visibility (statute miles) plotted in cyan [click to play animation]

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images; hourly surface weather symbols are plotted in yellow, with surface visibility (statute miles) plotted in cyan [click to play animation]

In the wake of a cold frontal passage on 09 November, northerly to northeasterly winds were transporting the smoke south-southwestward as the fires continued to burn on 10 November. GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images, above, showed the dense smoke plumes — some of which were briefly reducing the surface visibility to less than 1 statute mile in far western North Carolina (Andrews | Franklin). In Georgia, smoke restricted the visibility to 2.5 miles as far south as Columbus.

A Pilot Report (PIREP) in northern Georgia at 1530 UTC, below, indicated that the top of the smoke layer was around 3500 feet (where the Flight Visibility was 4 miles).  Surface reports in the vicinity of that PIREP indicated a ceiling of 1500 to 1700 feet, suggesting that the dense smoke layer aloft was about 1800-2000 feet thick over northern Georgia.

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) image, with cloud ceiling (hundreds of feet above ground level) and visibility (statute miles) plotted in cyan and a Pilot Report in yellow [click to enlarge]

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) image, with cloud ceiling (hundreds of feet above ground level) and visibility (statute miles) plotted in cyan and a Pilot Report in yellow [click to enlarge]

The smoke plumes showed up very well on an Aqua MODIS true-color RGB image from the MODIS Today site, below.

Aqua MODIS true-color image [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS true-color image [click to enlarge]

The 1858 UTC Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color image (with fire detections) and the Aerosol Optical Depth product, below, depicted the aerial coverage of the smoke.

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color image (with fire detection locations in red) and Aerosol Optical Depth product [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color image (with fire detection locations in red) and Aerosol Optical Depth product [click to enlarge]