Carbon Monoxide From California Wildfires Is Drifting To East

Posted: Aug 16 2018, 7:43am CDT | by , Updated: Aug 16 2018, 8:26am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Carbon Monoxide from California Wildfires are Drifting as Far as the East
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

New animation shows concentrations of carbon monoxide from California's massive wildfires drifting east across the U.S.

Wildfires are plaguing California ecosystems for centuries and will likely become more frequent and intense with climate change. Wildfires not only burn forests, homes and other structures but also release toxic emissions. The emissions from wildfires can be transported over long distances and affect air quality and visibility.

New data collected by the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) onboard NASA's Aqua satellite show the high concentrations of carbon monoxide emitted from California wildfires. It also reveals in startling detail the pattern in which the pollutant moved around over the course of July 29 and August 8. The smoke from these fires seems to be drifting east with one branch moving southward toward Texas and to the northeast as the time series progresses.

Carbon monoxide plays a major role in both air pollution and climate change. It is unique among pollutants because it can last about a month in the atmosphere and cover hundreds or even thousands of miles. Carbon monoxide has been observed from satellites for several years and is a very useful way to determine and model air pollution.

“From space, AIRS measures carbon monoxide high up in the atmosphere – where it has little effect on the air we breathe. However, strong winds can carry this pollutant downward to where it can have significant effects on air quality. The time series of images shows just how far the carbon monoxide from California's wildfires has traveled eastward and what areas may be at greater risk of experiencing its effects.” NASA statement reads.

NASA’s AIRS instrument is sensitive to carbon monoxide in the atmosphere. Launched in 2002 along with five other instruments in NASA's Aqua satellite, AIRS is the most advanced atmospheric sounding system ever deployed in space. It observes dozens of times more wavelengths than the earlier instruments and produces close to 3 million soundings a day.

AIRS collects data on severe weather patterns and significantly improves weather forecasting accuracy. Besides better forecasts, it also tracks greenhouse gases and smoke from wildfires and reveals how they are related to global climate change.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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