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NASA A-Train and Terra observations of the 2010 Russian wildfires

by J. C. Witte, A. R. Douglass, A. Da Silva, O. Torres, R. Levy, B. N. Duncan
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics ()

Abstract

Wildfires raged throughout western Russia and parts of Eastern Europe during a per- sistent heat wave in the summer of 2010. Anomalously high surface temperatures (35– 41◦C) and low relative humidity (9–25%) from mid-June to mid-August 2010 shown by analysis of radiosonde data from multiple sites in western Russia were ideal condi- tions for the wildfires to thrive. Measurements of outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) over western Russian indicate persis- tent subsidence during the heat wave. Daily three-day back-trajectories initiated over Moscow reveal a persistent anti-cyclonic circulation for 18 days in August, coincident with the most intense period of fire activity observed by Moderate Resolution Imag- ing Spectroradiometer (MODIS). This unfortunate meteorological coincidence allowed transport of polluted air from the region of intense fires to Moscow and the surround- ing area. We demonstrate that the 2010 Russian wildfires are unique in the record of observations obtained by remote-sensing instruments on-board NASA satellites: Aura and Aqua (part of the A-Train Constellation) and Terra. Analysis of the distribution of MODIS fire products and aerosol optical thickness (AOT), UV aerosol index (AI) and single-scattering albedo (SSA) from Aura’s Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI), and total column carbon monoxide (CO) from Aqua’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) show that the region in the center of western Russia surrounding Moscow (52◦–58◦ N, 33◦–43◦ E) is most severely impacted by wildfire emissions. Over this area, AIRS CO, OMI AI, and MODIS AOT are significantly enhanced relative to the historical satellite record during the first 18 days in August when the anti-cyclonic circulation persisted. By mid-August, the anti-cyclonic circulation was replaced with westerly transport over Moscow and vicinity. The heat wave ended as anomalies of surface temperature and relative humidity, and OLR disappeared. After 18 August the fire activity greatly dimin- ished over western Russia and levels of the satellite smoke tracers returned to values typical of previous years. 19114

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