Throughout August 2005, wildfires have been burning off and on across several regions of Portugal, which has been suffering through a severe drought. As the fires billowed thick smoke into the air, carbon monoxide accumulated and was measured by the Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere (MOPITT) sensor on NASA’s Terra satellite.
The color-coded map above shows levels of carbon monoxide that accumulated over the Iberian Peninsula from August 15-21. Carbon monoxide is measured in parts per billion by volume (ppbv) on a scale from 0 (blue) to 240 (red). A carbon monoxide concentration of 240 parts per billion by volume means that for every billion molecules in the column of air MOPITT observed, 240 were carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a good indicator of combustion-related air pollution, and observations like these from MOPITT give scientists a good idea of how that type of pollution spreads regionally or even globally.