The smoke from the extreme forest fires on the US West Coast in September 2020 travelled over many thousands of kilometres to Central Europe, where it continued to affect the atmosphere for days afterwards.
The smoke from the extreme forest fires on the US West Coast in September 2020 travelled over many thousands of kilometres to Central Europe, where it continued to affect the atmosphere for days afterwards. A comparison of ground and satellite measurements now shows: The forest fire aerosol disturbed the free troposphere over Leipzig in Germany as never before. An evaluation by an international research team led by the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS) revealed an extraordinary optical thickness on 11 September 2020, which attenuated sunlight by a third. The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, is the first publication to show that ESA's novel Aeolus satellite can not only reliably measure global wind profiles but also aerosols in the atmosphere as it was shown by comparing Aeolus measurements with lidar measurements from the ground. The Centre National de Recherches Météorologiques (CNRM) of the University of Toulouse, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the European Space Agency (ESA) were involved in the study.
Since August 2018, a new type of research satellite has been orbiting the Earth, named after a Greek wind god - Aeolus. The aim of Aeolus is to actively measure wind from space and thus improve weather forecasting. On board of this satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA) is the "Atmospheric Laser Doppler Instrument" (ALADIN), a high-performance laser. ALADIN is the first instrument in space that can actively measure vertical profiles of wind speed. It uses the principle of a light radar (short: Lidar from "LIght Detection And Ranging"). A signal is emitted and the reflection provides information about location and distance. The Doppler effect is then used to measure the wind speed at different heights in the atmosphere. To validate the laser measurements in space, they are compared with laser measurements from the ground. Several research groups from Germany are involved in this effort within the framework of the EVAA initiative (Experimental Validation and Assimilation of Aeolus observations). TROPOS, for example, measures with its lidar devices every Friday evening and Sunday morning when the Aeolus satellite flies over Leipzig. The data from ground and space can then be compared. On 11 September 2020, this resulted in the rare constellation that the extraordinary plume of smoke from the Californian forest fires could be measured over Leipzig simultaneously from ground and from space.
Read more at Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS)
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