Satellite images show wildfire smoke spreading across United States

The camera aboard the joint National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-NASA Suomi NPP satellite also captured images of the jet-stream-carried smoke plumes. Photo by Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS

Sept. 6 (UPI) — As showcased by new data and images collected by NASA satellites, wildfire smoke has spread out across much of the United States.

More than 80 large wildfires are burning in nine Western states. As a result, many residents of the Western United States are dealing with poor air quality. Wildfire smoke can carry a number of harmful chemicals into the atmosphere, including methanol, benzene and ozone.

According to AirNow, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index website, large portions of California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho are blanketed by “hazardous” air.

But not all of the smoke billowing into the atmosphere is staying put. West-to-east jet stream winds have carried large quantities of ash and soot across the heart of the country.

Data collected by an ozone-measuring instrument on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite revealed fairly dense smoke across a large swath of the Midwest.

NASA scientists plotted the satellite readings on a map of the United States to show the smoke’s distribution. The map discounts smoke at lower altitudes, as the satellite’s ozone instrument is designed to measure aerosol concentrations several thousand feet above Earth’s surface — not at “nose height.”

Satellite data revealed large amounts of wildfire smoke moving west to east across the United States Photo by NASA Earth ObservatoryJoshua Stevens

The camera aboard the Suomi NPP satellite — operated jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-NASA — also captured natural-color images of the jet-stream-carried smoke plumes.

According to NASA, the jet stream can carry high-altitude particulates to lower elevations. Parts of Iowa, far from the Western wildfires, had hazardous air this week as a result of windblown smoke.


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