Smoke Over the United States

September 5, 2017 – With dozens of wildfires burning across the western United States and Canada, many North Americans have had the acrid taste of smoke in their mouths during the past few weeks. On September 5, 2017, the National Interagency Fire Center reported more than 80 large fires burning in nine western U.S. states. People living in large stretches of northern California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho have breathed what the U.S. government’s Air Now website rated as “hazardous” air.

The Ozone Mapper Profiler Suite (OMPS) on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi-NPP) satellite collected data on airborne aerosols on September 4, 2017. On that day, smoke swept from west to east across the continental United States. This map depicts relative aerosol concentrations, with lower concentrations appearing in yellow and higher concentrations appearing in dark orange-brown. Note that the sensor detects aerosols in high-altitude plumes more readily than lower plumes, so this map does not reflect air quality conditions at “nose height.” Rather it shows where large plumes of smoke were lofted several kilometers up in the atmosphere.

The natural-color mosaic (second image) was captured by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on Suomi NPP on September 4, 2017.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens and Jesse Allen, using Suomi NPP OMPS data provided courtesy of Colin Seftor (SSAI) and VIIRS data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership.. Story by Adam Voiland.