CALIPSO Satellite Shows Smoke from Australian Fires

Jan. 13, 2020, 7 a.m.

Project: CALIPSO

On January 1, 2020, NASA’s Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) satellite observed an extraordinary amount of smoke injected into the atmosphere from the Australian fires with smoke plumes reaching 11 miles (17.7 km) vertically into the lower stratosphere from some energetic firestorms.

The devastating fires in southeastern Australia have renewed focus on the dangers that extreme drought and heat can pose to society. The beginning of January, fires erupted near populated areas in Victoria and New South Wales with destructive effects, resulting in one of Australia’s largest evacuations. NASA’s CALIPSO satellite provided data for a new animation that shows the aerosols generated from the smoke has spread high into the atmosphere and far to the east over the Pacific Ocean. These storms are fueled by both heat from the fires and water vapor in the atmosphere, which allow them to grow into thunderstorms.  Strong winds from these storms can fan fires into raging infernos.  There have been more than 20 firestorms just in the past week.

The CALIPSO satellite provides new insight into the role that clouds and atmospheric aerosols (airborne particles) play in regulating Earth's weather, climate, and air quality. CALIPSO combines an active lidar instrument with passive infrared and visible imagers to probe the vertical structure and properties of thin clouds and aerosols over the globe. CALIPSO was launched on April 28, 2006 with the cloud profiling radar system on the CloudSat satellite.

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Image/Article Credit: Denise Linberry, Jason Tackett, Chip Trepte, Jay Kar, Beth Brumbaugh
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