A Meeting of Black Carbon Smoke and Tropical Storms

Black Carbon Column Mass Density, September 14 – 16, 2020.

As large fires on the U.S. West Coast lofted vast plumes of smoke high into the atmosphere in September 2020, satellites and models tracked the movement of particles spreading east and blanketing much of the continental U.S.

Some NASA scientists were particularly impressed by developments between September 14-16, 2020, when satellites observed two tropical cyclones—Paulette and Sally—helping steer high-flying smokes plumes that were passing over the Midwest and Northeast.

The series of images above shows the abundance and direction of black carbon as it moved across the United States and encountered the storms. The black carbon data comes from the GEOS forward processing (GEOS-FP) model, which assimilates information from satellite, aircraft, and ground-based observing systems. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the NOAA-NASA Suomi NPP satellite acquired the images of the storms.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using GEOS-5 data from the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA GSFC and VIIRS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview and the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership.

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