Dense Smoke from Australia Fire Reaches Stratosphere Heads to Pacific Northwest

Cheryl Sanders
January 16, 2020

The image below shows a huge area directly above the bushfires that is spewing extreme amounts of aerosols into the atmosphere creating a health hazard not only for residents in the area, but also for those affected when wind patterns carry that smoke on jet streams. NASA astronauts on the International Space Station are closely monitoring and photographing the fires as Australia continues to burn. Suomi NPP serves as an important link between the current generation of Earth-observing satellites and the next generation of climate and weather satellites. One posted a photo holding baby kangaroo last week.

The New Zealand Defence Force personnel in Australia have been faced with grim tasks and seen devastation first-hand, but they're pleased to be able to help out.

It is pertinent to mention here, the bushfires in Australia have burned over 20 million acres of land across the country -including more than 12 million acres in New South Wales.

Like Parmitano, other astronauts aboard the ISS have already witnessed past wildfires from space such as those in California and the Amazon previous year.

Researchers from NASA said the smoke has led to an unusually large number of pyrocumulonimbus (pyrCbs) events, or fire-induced thunderstorms, to form in the skies.

PyroCb events provide a pathway for smoke to reach the stratosphere more than 10 miles in altitude, and once there, the smoke can travel thousands of miles from its source and affect atmospheric conditions around the world, NASA said. The agency noted that the clouds are now traveling across the planet.

Smoke from fires in Australia is expected to make at least one "full circuit" around the globe and return to the skies over the country, scientists from NASA have warned.

Thunderstorms caused by the wildfires are accelerating the smoke plume in its path around the world.

"NASA satellites can show the movement of the smoke across the globe as evidenced above, but other instruments found onboard can give scientists, firefighters, health experts, local government, and others information about what is happening on the ground in real-time", NASA said.

The agency did not give an estimated date for when the smoke is expected to return, but did say that as of January 8, the smoke was crossing South America.

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