2013-06-28: Smoke from Colorado wildfires reaches Europe

On 25 June 2013, smoke from the large wildfires in Colorado (USA) reached Europe. This was seen in the GOME-2 and OMI aerosol images, processed at KNMI.

The smoke originated from large wildfires in Colorado, in the Rio Grande National Forest around West Fork. The wildfires started on 5 June and were caused by lightning strikes. The main burning material are the many dead trees killed by infestation with the mountain pine beetle. In combination with drought and, from 20 June onwards, strong surface winds (up to 50 mph), this resulted in raging fires. The excessive heat of the fires also caused pyrocumulus clouds. The meteorological conditions caused the smoke to be lifted rapidly to high altitudes (13 km according to Calipso lidar measurements). At high altitudes the smoke was transported to Europe.

Smoke particles are very small (around 0.1 micron) but well visible at the ultraviolet wavelengths which GOME-2 and OMI observe. The GOME-2 Absorbing Aerosol Index (AAI) image of 25 June 2013 shows the smoke plume south-west of Ireland and England.

On 26 June the smoke plume moved over the European mainland, which was also observed from the ground. Lidar observations from Cabauw (the Netherlands) showed that the smoke plume was at an altitude of 4 km in the morning of 26 June when it passed over.

The used GOME-2 PMD data is from EUMETSATís Metop-B satellite, launched in September 2012. The PMD sensor data have a high spatial resolution of 10x40 km2. The GOME-2 data are processed at KNMI in the framework of the Ozone and Atmospheric Chemistry Satellite Application Facility (O3MSAF) of EUMETSAT.

The news of the Colorado smoke plume over Europe was published by KNMI on 26 June 2013 (in Dutch): see here

Actual satellite images of absorbing aerosols measured by GOME-2 and OMI are published on the TEMIS website: see here

Figure 1: Smoke from the Colorado wildfires has arrived south-west of Ireland on 25 June 2013. The Absorbing Aerosol Index (AAI) is detected by GOME-2 on Metop-B, using the Polarization Monitoring Devices (PMDs).
Figure 2: Global map of the Absorbing Aerosol Index (AAI) on 25 June 2013. The AAI shows the smoke over the Atlantic Ocean and desert dust from the Sahara.
Figure 3: Animation of the Absorbing Aerosol Index (AAI).