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

NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz
NASA Earth Observatory

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."

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.

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

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.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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