Satellite photos of Russian wildfires

Posted by mjs76 at Aug 12, 2010 01:05 PM |
Leicester team releases startling images of massive smoke clouds.

It won’t have escaped your notice that Russia is currently suffering massive wildfires: burning peat bogs producing vast clouds of smoke which is mixing with airborne pollution to create a mass of smog around Moscow. The full extent of the problem is captured in this series of satellite images from our Earth Observation Science (EOS) group, which is a combined team of physicists, chemists and geographers.

Using data supplied by EUMETSAT from the MetOp-A and METEOSAT weather satellites, the EOS group have turned the three true-colour images on the left (taken on, top to bottom, 4, 8 and 9 August 2010), into false colour images which reveal the full extent of the Russian problem. All that yellow – that’s smoke, that is.

(Click on any image to see it full size.)

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By analysing the images, the EOS group have identified the presence of pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb) clouds, which are water vapour clouds formed by hot air rising directly from a large fire. Taller and denser than the more common pyrocumulus clouds, pyroCb clouds act as convectors, carrying pollution as high as the lower stratosphere and then for thousands of kilometres across the globe. The 8 August (bottom) image appears to show the smoke from the Russian wildfires heading towards Finland, which can just be seen in the far top left of the frame.

Founded in 1986, EUMETSAT is the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, providing weather- and climate-related data and images from orbiting satellites to organisations in 26 member states.

MetOp, launched in 2006, is Europe’s first polar-orbiting weather satellite, part of a planned network of three spacecraft. These images were created by the Leicester team using data from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR), a NASA-designed instrument provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The AVHRR orbits twice daily and measure both radiated thermal energy and reflected solar energy, thereby providing data in fields such as sea temperatures, snow coverage and even soil moisture levels. It has a resolution of 1km and scans across six channels: three thermal infrared and three near the infrared end of the visible spectrum.

In addition to the still images, the Leicester EOS group have also been looking at images recorded on 4 August 2010 by SEVIRI, the Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager on board METEOSAT.

SEVIRI has twelve scanning channels including eight thermal infrared channels, again with a 1km resolution, and provides a three-dimensional view of the atmosphere which is used in weather forecasting. There are SEVIRI instruments onboard METEOSAT-8 (launched in 2002) and METEOSAT-9 (launched in 2005) which are both part of the second generation of METEOSAT vehicles, designed to provide data through to 2020.