NASA Instrument Tracks Pollution from Russian Fires
Drought and the worst heat wave Russia has seen in 130 years have sparked a devastating outbreak of wildfires across the nation this summer, primarily in the country's western and central regions. According to wire service reports and Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry, as of Aug. 6, 2010, some 558 fires were burning. The fires have killed at least 52 people, destroyed some 2,000 homes and charred more than 1,796 square kilometers (693 square miles). Russia's capital city of Moscow is currently blanketed in a thick smog, which has curtailed activities and disrupted air traffic. According to the Associated Press, levels of carbon monoxide pollution in Moscow are at an all-time high, four times higher than normal.
The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA's Aqua spacecraft is tracking the concentration and transport of carbon monoxide from the Russian fires. On August 1, 2010, the excess carbon monoxide content almost reached the maximum values seen in 2002. The rate of growth (approximately 0.7 megatons, or 700,000 metric tons, per day) characterizes the rate of emission; the current rate is approximately three times higher than in 2002.
AIRS is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., under contract to NASA. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.