River of Smoke
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River of Smoke

August 9, 2013
A vigorous summer fire season continued through July, 2013 as many large wildfires continued to burn in the forests of northern Canada. The high fire activity not only laid waste to thousands of hectares of boreal forest, but sent thick smoke billowing high into the atmosphere, where it was carried far across the Atlantic Ocean.

On July 30, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of a river of smoke spreading south across the Hudson Bay. The blue background is formed by the waters of Hudson Bay. In the southeast the green, forest-covered land of Quebec province peeks from under a large cloud bank. Another large bank of white cloud covers the water in the southwest, and a smaller cloud bank covers the territory of Nunavut in the northwest. A bit of Baffin Island can be seen near the top center of the image.

Looking closely at the image, it appears that the gray smoke mixes with whiter cloud in the south, suggesting they may be at the same level in the atmosphere. In the northeast corner of the image, a ribbon of smoke appears to blow over a bank of popcorn clouds as well as over a few lower-lying clouds, causing some of the clouds to appear gray beneath the smoky veil. Where cloud meets smoke in the northeast, however, the line of the cloud bank remains sharp, while the smoke appears to continue traveling under the edge.

Although these interpretations are somewhat subjective in this true-color image, the false-color image of the same scene (not shown here) lends strength to the interpretation. Data from other NASA instruments, designed to measure cloud height and characteristics, agree that clouds vary in height, and that smoke mingles with cloud in the south.

Credits: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

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