Image courtesy NCAR MOPITT Team
Bushfires continue to burn in southeast Australia. This false-color image shows the resulting
concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO) at an altitude of roughly 3 km (700 millibars) in the
atmosphere over Australia and New Zealand. Data taken by the Measurements Of Pollution In The
Troposphere (MOPITT) instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite have been combined for 6 days from January 15-20, 2003. The colors represent the mixing ratios of carbon monoxide in the air,
given in parts per billion by volume. In this scene, values range from as high as 250 ppbv (purple
pixels) to as low as 50 ppbv (blue pixels). The white areas show where no data were collected,
either due to persistent cloud cover or gaps between satellite viewing swaths.
Carbon monoxide is produced as a result of incomplete combustion during burning processes, and is important due to its impact on chemistry in the lower atmosphere. It is a good indicator of
atmospheric pollution, and its presence adversely affects the atmosphere's ability to cleanse itself.
Because carbon monoxide is persistent for several weeks, it clearly shows the propagation of
pollution plumes from the region of the Australian fires out thousands of kilometers into the usually
pristine atmosphere of the southern Pacific Ocean. The distribution of pollution over Australia
corresponds closely with satellite observed aerosol emitted by the fires as observed by TOMS.
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This image originally appeared on the Earth Observatory. Click here to view the full, original record.