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Pollution from Fires in Northern Canada Seen by NASA's Aura Satellite
satellite color-density map of nitrogen dioxide from fires in Northern Canada This image from the OMI instrument on NASA's Aura satellite shows nitrogen dioxide levels from July 9 through 12, 2011 in Canada's Northwest Territory, Alberta and Saskatchewan pertaining to the fires. The highest levels of NO2 appear in orange. NO2 is measured as the tropospheric observed vertical column density of atmospheric nitrogen oxide molecules above a one square centimeter area on the ground. Credit: NASA/James Acker

Recent pollution levels from the fires in Canada's Northwest Territories do not appear to be as high as they were at the end of June as the fires have come under more control since then. NASA's Aura Satellite has provided a view of nitrogen dioxide levels coming from the fires in Canada's Northwest Territories, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The Great Slave Lake is the large lake seen (top left) in this satellite image that appears somewhat like a triangle. It is located in the Northwest Territories, which lies north of Alberta and Saskatchewan. To the southeast (right, center) of the Great Slave Lake is Lake Athabasca. Lake Athabasca extends from extreme northeastern Alberta into northwestern Saskatchewan and the fires located just north of that lake are producing nitrogen dioxide (yellow and orange).

Detection of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is important because it reacts with sunlight to create low-level ozone or smog and poor air quality. The Ozone Measuring Instrument (OMI) that flies aboard NASA's Aura satellite is able to detect NO2. Low-level ozone (smog) is hazardous to the health of both plants and animals, and ozone in association with particulate matter causes respiratory problems in humans.

This image shows the NO2 levels from July 9 through 12, 2011, and was created from OMI data using the NASA Giovanni system by Dr. James Acker at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. OMI measures NO2 as the tropospheric observed vertical column density of atmospheric nitrogen oxide molecules above a one square centimeter area on the ground. NO2 levels south of the center of Slave Lake appear to be the highest (in orange).

According to the Canadian government in Alberta, as of July 13, eight wildfires were burning in the Waterways Area, located in the northeastern part of the province. All were either being held or under control. The pollution from those fires are visible in the lower part of this image.

In Saskatchewan (located on the right side of this image, from the eastern side of Lake Athabasca south) 12 fires are reported burning. Three fires are being battled by the Buffalo Narrows Fire Centre, while 9 are being battled from the La Ronge Fire Centre.

OMI data is archived at the NASA Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center (GES DISC), and is provided by KNMI, the Koninklijk Nederlands Meteorologisch Instituut (Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute). Dr. P.F. Levelt is the Principal Investigator of OMI, Dr. J. Tamminen is the Finnish Co-PI, and Dr. P.K. Bhartia leads the U.S. OMI science team. Dr. James Gleason (NASA) and Pepijn Veefkind (KNMI) are PIs of the OMI NO2 product.
Image: NASA/Aura/OMI, James Acker
Caption by Rob Gutro
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.