Fires in Southern California
Image courtesy the NCAR and University of Toronto MOPITT Teams
Although the large fires that ravaged Southern California are now under control, they can be blamed for the polluted air that is spreading over the Western States and into the Pacific Ocean. In additional to ash and smoke, the fires released carbon monoxide into the atmosphere as they burned. This false-color image shows the atmospheric column of carbon monoxide, with yellow and red indicating high levels of pollution. The data were taken by the Measurements Of Pollution In The Troposphere (MOPITT) instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite for the period October 26-31, 2003.
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, the pollution can travel thousands of miles downwind of the fires. This provides an example of how intense local sources, such as the California fires, can impact air quality on a global scale.
This image originally appeared on the Earth Observatory. Click here to view the full, original record.