Smoke From Australian Fires Circles the World Says NASA

A fleet of satellites has allowed NASA to analzse the smoke and aerosols coming from the massive fires in Australia.

The extense of the fires in Australia is seen in recent satellite images. The country has been ravaged by the worst wildfires in the history of the country, and now NASA says the smoke plumes have circumnavigated our planet.


NOAA / NASA Suomi NPP satellite observations have tracked the movement of smoke from the Australian fires around the world, showing that the smoke produced by the massive fires has made its way around the world already.

An image generated from the data collected by the OMPS instrument (Nzone Mapper of Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite) onboard the Suomi NPP satellite, a black circle shows the smoke which had been traced from its origins coming back to the eastern region of Australia after having traveled around the world, reports NASA in a recent statement.

The Suomi NPP satellite orbits the Earth with as many as five science instruments that gather unprecedented data.

An image of the UV aerosol index from the SUOMI NPP Satellite showing that the smoke from Australian fires has made its way around the world. Image Credit: NASA/Colin Seftor.
An image of the UV aerosol index from the SUOMI NPP Satellite showing that the smoke from Australian fires has made its way around the world. Image Credit: NASA/Colin Seftor.

It is also the first satellite mission that is able to successfully gather a wide range of land, ocean, and atmospheric measurements for Earth system science while concurrently preparing to address operational requirements for weather forecasting.

Suomi NPP also symbolizes the gateway to the creation of a U.S. climate monitoring system, collecting both climate and operational weather data and continuing key data records that are critical for global change science.

Suomi NPP observes Earth’s surface twice every 24-hour day, once in the daylight and once at night.

Suomi NPP orbits the Earth at an altitude of 824 kilometers above the surface in a polar orbit, circling around the planet about 14 times a day.

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In addition to exploring the solar system and the universe, NASA owns a fleet of advanced Earth-observing instruments, many of which contribute to our better understanding of fires on Earth.

Satellites in orbit around the poles provide observations of the entire planet various times per day, whereas satellites in a geostationary orbit produce coarse-resolution imagery of fires, smoke, and clouds every five to 15 minutes.

NASA satellites have, therefore, the ability to show the flow of smoke across the globe.

However, in addition to that, other instruments found onboard its different satellites offer scientists, firefighters, health experts, local government, among others, information about what is occurring on the ground in real-time.

Analyzing the fires that broke out in Australia, the Suomi NPP satellite used its reflectance bands, on the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite on January 13, 2020, to show the areas that were affected by the fires.

The reflectance bands can also give experts an idea of the height of the clods, since clouds that are closer to the surface appear white, while clouds that are located high in the atmosphere have blue tones because the ice crystals inside the clouds reflect a bluer color with the instrument.

NASA says that air quality during events such as destructive bushfires is another serious matter to address and NASA satellites are able to help in this area as well.