Authors: Ryan Bolt, Charles Vernon, Timothy Canty, and Ralph Kahn
Across the world there are thousand of wildfires, dozens of volcanic eruptions, and hundreds of dust storms every year. Each of these events emits particles into the atmosphere, and many form plumes. The heights of these plums affects the time the particles remain aloft, the distance they travel away from the source, and as a result, their environmental impact. In general, only a rough estimate of the height of these plumes can be determined. The Active Aerosol Plume-height (AAP) project is using hyper-stereo imagery from the NASA Earth Observing System’s Multi-angle Imaging Spectro Radiometer (MISR) instrument to determine the heights of wildfire, dust, and volcanic plumes large enough to be resolved in the satellite data. The software being used, the MISR Interactive eXplorer (MINX), requires an operator to outline the plume and indicate the wind direction. Then the software uses seven camera angles to determine the height of the plume. MINX also collects MISR standard retrieval products that report aerosol amount and type.
One objective of the AAP project is to provide operational aircraft-safety, air-quality and other responders with plume-height information within about 24-48 hours, to support plume trajectory and dispersion modeling. The analysis of plumes can also help elucidate the effect aerosols have on a variety of atmospheric phenomena in the longer term. The AAP project will allow for further study of aerosol plume height and distribution throughout the atmosphere, leading to better understanding of the effects that wildfires, volcanoes, and dust storms have on our air quality and climate. For example, plume-height analysis can be used to study the effect aerosol plumes have on the surface radiation budget, as they can produce changes in visible and ultraviolet radiation reaching Earth’s surface. We will present results from analysis of this data product and further uses that may be of interest to the community.