June 4, 2014
(11 Sept. 2010) --- A smoke plume near the northern Caspian Sea, Kazakhstan is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 24 crew member on the International Space Station. This broad view of the north coast of the Caspian Sea shows a smoke plume (left) and two river deltas (bottom and lower right). The larger delta is that of the Volga River which appears prominently here in sunglint (light reflected off a water surface back towards the observer), and the smaller less prominent delta is that of the Ural River. Wide angle, oblique views -- taken looking outward at an angle, rather than straight down towards Earth -- such as this give an excellent impression of how crew members onboard the space station view Earth. For a sense of scale, the Caucasus Mts. (across the Caspian, top right) are approximately 1,100 kilometers to the southwest of the International Space Station's nadir point location -- the point on Earth directly underneath the spacecraft -- at the time this image was taken. The smoke plume appears to be sourced in the dark-toned coastal marsh vegetation along the outer fringe of the Ural River delta, rather than in a city or at some oil storage facility. Although even small fires produce plumes that are long and bright and thus easily visible from space, the density of the smoke in this plume, and its 350-kilometer length across the entire north lobe of the Caspian Sea, suggest it was a significant fire. The smoke was thick enough nearer the source to cast shadows on the sea surface below. Lines mark three separate pulses of smoke, the most recent, nearest the source, extending directly south away from the coastline (lower left). With time, plumes become progressively more diffuse. The oldest pulse appears to be the thinnest, casting no obvious shadows (center left).
Topics: Environment, Earth, Physical geography, Water, Caspian sea, River delta, Ural River, Sunglint, Water pollution, plume, aquifers, Air dispersion modeling, Disaster Accident