Friday, February 03, 2017

Satellite imagery of smoke from Chilean wildfires (Jan 27th)

The other day, I wrote about the wildfires currently burning in Chile, in particular referencing the great extensive coverage of Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today (see posts tagged Chile on Wildfire Today) and Fire Aviation (see posts tagged Chile on Fire Aviation). As I write this, I believe that Bill is still embedded with the crew Global Supertanker's 747, T-944.

Some of you may know that for the last couple of months I have been reading and learning about NOAA/NASA's satellites, mostly about the new GOES-16 (formerly GOES-R) that was launched on November 19, 2016. Recall that GOES-16 and the other geostationary operational environmental satellite orbit at an altitude of approximately 22,300 miles above the Earth, in a geostationary orbit.

NOAA/NASA has other satellites orbiting the Earth in addition to the GOES series, you may go to NOAA Satellites and Information Services "Currently Flying Page" for a brief introduction (and a great image) of these satellites. Today I am interested in one of the polar orbiting satellites, the Suomi NPP (Near Polar-Orbiting Partnership) satellite which I will get to in a minute. Unlike the satellites in the GOES series and other geostationary operational environmental satellites from other countries, the polar orbit satellites, orbit the Earth in a polar orbit at about 800 kilometers (or 500 miles above the Earth).

The Suomi NPP Satellite is a joint effort of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and an organization known as the NPOESS Integrated Program Office. It orbits the earth at an altitude of 833 km in a (near?) polar orbit (see the Suomi NPP status page for more information.  It is a part of the Joint Polar Satellite System, and has five instruments: VIIRS,  CrIS, ATMS, OMPS, and CERES FM5. For more information about these instruments, please go here (the information is complete but perhaps a little technical. For our purposes, I am interested in VIIRS or the Visible/Infrared Imager/Radiometer Suite (VIIRS).

Among the capabilities of VIIRS is its "multichannel imaging capabilities to support the acquisition of high resolution atmospheric imagery and generation of a variety of applied products including: visible and infrared imaging of hurricanes and detection of fires, smoke, and atmospheric aerosols" (obtained on February 3, 2017 from

And it is the ability of VIIRS on the Suomi NPP to detect fires and smoke that leads me today's post. The image below was taking by the Suomi NPP over the west coast of Chile on January 27, 2017. You will the large smoke plume for that fire. Pretty cool, huh?

Obtained on February 3, 2017 from, their image of day for 2/1/17
And you will want to read this information from the Suomi NPP Facebook Page posted on February 1st

The links on this page were current on the date I wrote this article.

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