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Smoke plumes from North American wildfires over Spain


Massive wildfires in US and Canada produced smoke plumes that drifted over the Atlantic Ocean and reached Europe in late June 2013. MODIS satellite imagery shows smoke plumes hovering over Spain and the western Mediterranean Sea on June 26-27, 2013.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of smoke plumes over Spain and the western Mediterranean Sea on June 27, 2013. The smoke has a faintly yellow-tan or milky gray color compared with brighter white clouds. Open the larger image to see how the smoke extends over the open water. (Credit: NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.)

Data from Earth-observing satellites suggests that the smoke originated from wildfires in Canada. However, massive wildfires in Colorado and other parts of the southwestern United States could also be the source of smoke plumes.

Experts explain that smoke lofted above the boundary layer – the part of the atmosphere closest to the ground, where topography has a significant impact on winds – will spread farther than smoke that remains trapped near the surface. Once the smoke was above the boundary layer, winds transported it east over the Atlantic Ocean.

The MODIS instruments on NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites acquired imagery of the smoke moving across the Atlantic on June 24, and June 25. By June 26, the smoke had reached western Europe. By June 27, it was over the Mediterranean Sea. (Credit: LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response.)

MODIS satellite image showing smoke plumes extending from Atlantic Ocean, reaching Iberia Peninsula and Western Mediterranean Sea on June 26, 2013 (Credit: NASA/LANCE/MODIS/Worldview)

One of the reasons why the meteorologists closely monitor smoke plumes from wildfires, is because smoke can spread across vast distances and pose significant health hazards, especially to children and the elderly.  

Source: Earth Observatory

Featured image: MODIS satellite observing smoke plumes over Spain on June 27, 2013 (Credit: NASA/LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response)


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