Fri June 28, 2013

Wonder Where Colorado Wildfire Smoke Goes? It Might Be East Coast Bound

With several wildfires burning in Colorado, the smoke has to go somewhere, of course. But where? This photo from NASA may hold the answer.

Currently 13 wildfires are actively burning in Colorado, charring hundreds of square miles and forcing thousands to flee their homes and businesses. Swirling winds from dry thunderstorms have fanned the massive West Fork Complex near Pagosa Springs.

This satellite photo from the NASA Earth Observatory suggests Colorado wildfire smoke may be heading northeast toward the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Newfoundland. NASA notes, though, that Canada is in wildfire season too and that "it is less likely, but possible, that it [smoke] came from wildfires in Colorado and other parts of the southwestern United States."

Wildfire smoke over the North Atlantic Ocean, the smoke is light brown versus the white clouds, taken June 23
Credit NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz / NASA Earth Observatory

This amazing image – which was captured in June by astronauts aboard the International Space Station – shows a thick plume of smoke from the West Fork Complex drifting eastward across the continent.

Smoke from Colorado wildfires (Wild Rose at the top, West Fork Complex bottom) billowing toward the East Coast, taken June 19
Credit ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center / NASA Earth Observatory

What’s even more fascinating is that large wildfires can actually create their own weather. Intense heat from the West Fork fires spawned pyrocumulus clouds. Scientists monitor these clouds because they can spread smoke and pollutants far beyond the range of the fire.