SEP 17, 2020 7:30 AM PDT

Concerns about carbon monoxide concentrations from CA's wildfires

As California faces its worst wildfire season yet, with 28 major fires burning throughout the state as of September 14, many people across the region are being forced to stay in their homes – not because of COVID-19, but because of poor air quality. NASA documents those concerns using the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) aboard the Aqua satellite in order to map the carbon monoxide plumes emanating from the fires.

AIRS works with the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU) to detect emitted infrared and microwave radiation from Earth. This information can map Earth's weather and climate in 3D down to Earth's surface, capturing information such as atmospheric temperature and humidity, cloud amounts and heights, and greenhouse gas concentrations. The instruments have been flying in Earth’s orbit for almost two decades collecting atmospheric data from over 2,000 channels sensing different regions of the atmosphere.

From the information gathered over the last few weeks, the carbon monoxide concentrations released from the wildfires are of significant concern. NASA created an animation of three-day averages of carbon monoxide concentrations 5 kilometers high in the atmosphere. In the animation, red and orange zones show extremely high carbon monoxide concentrations (>350 parts per billion by volume); while yellow and green zones indicate regions with normal concentrations (30-50 ppbv).

As you likely know, carbon monoxide is hazardous to human health. However, you might not have known that the pollutant can stay in the atmosphere for as long as a month and can even travel long distances in high winds, thus transporting the risk of poor air quality to areas seemingly unaffected by the fires.

Experts are concerned that carbon monoxide released from fires such as the August Complex Fire, which began a month ago and has since burned over 471,000 acres, could threaten public health over a wide range due to their wide eastward expansion across the US and the Atlantic Ocean.

To follow the most up to date carbon monoxide data from NASA, you can visit Eyes on the Earth (https://eyes.nasa.gov/apps/earth/#/).

Sources: NASA, Science Daily

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
OCT 28, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Researchers Examine Coral Chemical Compounds on Reef Health Effects
OCT 28, 2022
Researchers Examine Coral Chemical Compounds on Reef Health Effects
In a recent study published in ISME Communications, a team of researchers led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institutio ...
NOV 05, 2022
Plants & Animals
Meet The Roadrunner: Your Newest Neighbor
NOV 05, 2022
Meet The Roadrunner: Your Newest Neighbor
Equipped with a mohawk, a long sharp beak, and a quick stride the roadrunner has the tools and cunning to adapt to a rug ...
NOV 10, 2022
Technology
Potholes Might Say Bye-Bye Thanks to New Machine-Learning Technique
NOV 10, 2022
Potholes Might Say Bye-Bye Thanks to New Machine-Learning Technique
In a recent study published in Engineering Structures, a team of researchers from the University of Technology Sydney ha ...
NOV 17, 2022
Plants & Animals
Honeybees Are Living 50% Shorter Lives Than 50 Years Ago
NOV 17, 2022
Honeybees Are Living 50% Shorter Lives Than 50 Years Ago
New research shows that honeybees are living half the lifespans they used to only 50 years ago. Researchers from the Uni ...
NOV 24, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
Antarctic Marine Life Would Likely Not Survive Invasion
NOV 24, 2022
Antarctic Marine Life Would Likely Not Survive Invasion
Life finds a way, even at the bottom of the cold Antarctic Sea. However, the organisms at the bottom of the Antarctic mi ...
DEC 06, 2022
Plants & Animals
Locating Genes to Help Fruit Survive Droughts
DEC 06, 2022
Locating Genes to Help Fruit Survive Droughts
As climate change becomes more prominent in our world, people and plants alike are starting to feel the effects of a cha ...
Loading Comments...