Suomi NPP Shows Smoke From Brian Head Fire Drifting Across Colorado

Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team.

June 23, 2017 – The Suomi NPP satellite’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument captured this image of the Brian Head fire on June 22, 2017. Actively burning areas, detected by VIIRS, are outlined in red. Images like these provide active fire data as emergency response teams continue to fight fires.

What’s also interesting in this image is the ability to see how far the smoke from the fire carries. In this image smoke is seen hundreds of miles away drifting over central Colorado. While fires are usually contained within their state the smoke from the fires affects people for hundreds to thousands of miles from its origin.

The smoke released by any type of fire is a mixture of particles and chemicals produced by incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials. All smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter or soot, and is hazardous to breathe. Smoke can be devastating to those with respiratory issues. Smoke also changes the Earth’s solar radiation balance, which in turn, affects the amount of heat in the Earth system. Long-lasting smoke plumes can chemically react with other constituents in the atmosphere, producing ozone.

Both the Suomi NPP and the upcoming Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1), built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado, use the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) to track the smoke aerosols as they’re transported by wind around the globe.

The Brian Head Fire started on June 17, at 12:20 PM and the cause of the fire is still under investigation but it is believed to be human caused. Currently the fire is 27,744 acres and 809 personnel are tending to this fire. The Brian Head Fire began on lands administered by Brian Head Town, Iron County, in cooperation with Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands. It has since burned on to the Dixie National Forest and Color Country District Bureau of Land Management.

Weather conditions do not favor a quick end to the fire as dry northwest winds flow across the fire through early Sunday. Temperatures will remain about 10 degrees above normal with bone dry relative humidity values through Sunday as well.

Ball Aerospace built both the Suomi NPP and JPSS spacecraft bus and the onboard Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) instrument for each satellite. Ball is also responsible for instrument integration, satellite-level testing and launch support. Both satellites are a joint mission between NASA and NOAA.