06-15 May 1998 -- Smoke From Central American Fires

GOES-8 visible

GOES-8 Visible Image
22:45 UTC 06 May 1998

NOAA ARL forward trajectories

NOAA ARL Forward Trajectories
07-11 May 1998

Numerous fires have been burning in drought-stricken Mexico and Central America since mid February 1998, and began to intensify in early April 1998.  Persistent south/southwesterly flow has transported the smoke over the Gulf of Mexico, impacting the Gulf Coast states.  Reduced visibility (as low as 2-3 miles) has been reported in Florida, Louisiana and Texas.  A public health alert was issued on 12 May 1998 for portions of Texas due to the large amount of smoke particulate matter which has been transported into the region.

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) series (GOES-8, GOES-9, and GOES-10) are operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A series of GOES-8 visible imagery (06 May | 07 May | 08 May | 09 May | 10 May | 11 May | 12 May | 13 May | 14 May | 15 May | Java animation) shows the daily changes and large areal extent of the smoke pall which originated in Central America.  Forward air mass trajectories (above right) calculated by the NOAA Air Resources Laboratory HYSPLIT4 model show the likely path of transport of smoke-laden air parcels across the Gulf of Mexico and into the south-central and southeastern U.S.

A GOES-8 3.9 micron shortwave IR image at 22:15 UTC on 13 May 1998 (below left) shows numerous fires (dark "hot spots") burning throughout Mexico and parts of Central America. Version 5.6 of the CIMSS GOES-8 Automated Biomass Burning Algorithm (ABBA) was used to automatically locate and characterize sub-pixel fire activity in that region (below right). The locations of GOES-8 ABBA fire pixels which were processed for subpixel fire size and temperature are indicated in red. Saturated fire pixels are shown in yellow; cloud-covered fire pixels are depicted in magenta; and smoldering or hot bare soil is shown in blue. Fire pixels are categorized into high (orange), medium (green), and low (white) probability fire pixels. At 22:15 UTC on 13 May 1998 the ABBA identified 450 definite and possible fire pixels. Only 76 of these were identified as medium or low possibility fire pixels.

GOES-8 3.9 um shortwave IR

GOES-8 3.9um IR
22:15 UTC 13 May 1998

CIMSS ABBA Product

CIMSS ABBA Product
22:15 UTC 13 May 1998


Update: The smoke has been transported as far north as Wisconsin on 15 May, with visibilities restricted to 3-5 miles; a photo shows the haziness over Madison WI; this smoke was likely concentrated within a subsidence inversion near the 850 hPa (1.5 km) level.


Other image examples of the Central American fires:

Air Resources Laboratory Smoke Prediction

CAPITA Central American Fires

Central American Smoke over the Southern United States

CIRA Satellite Discussion

NOAA Mexican Fires

NOAA Operational Significant Event Imagery

NOAA Storm Prediction Center

NWS Office in Lake Charles, LA

Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission

TOMS Aerosol Index from NASA Goddard


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