Russian wildfires creating towering dirty clouds: Scientists

Last Updated: Saturday, August 14, 2010 - 17:40

London: The vast plumes of smoke emanating
from the forest fires in Russia are now creating so-called
pyrocumulonimbus clouds which scientists say can trap airborne
pollution and travel thousands of miles.

Satellite images of the smoke analysed by researchers at
the University of Leicester`s Earth Observation Science group
have revealed that these dense towering clouds are reaching
lower stratosphere that begins at an altitude of 36,000 feet
(11,000 meters).

Pyrocumulonimbus clouds, which generally formed when
intense heat from a fire pushes air high into atmosphere, can
trap airborne pollution and transport it for thousands of
miles, the researchers said.

"Using measurements from spaceborne instruments, we have
been able to observe the vast extent of the smoke released
from numerous wildfires in Western Russia," study member David
Moore was quoted as saying by LiveScience.

"The pollutants contained within these smoke plumes can
have a profound effect on both the local and regional air
quality and atmospheric chemistry," he said.

Moore added: "A key aspect of our ongoing investigations
will be to quantify the impact the fires have had on indirect
greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon monoxide."
The satellite images were captured on Aug 4, 8 and 9 by
equipment on the European satellite MetOp-A.

By comparing the each satellite image in true colour and
false colour (in which the smoke shows up as yellow), the
researchers could clearly see the extent of the smoke plumes
and their encirclement of Moscow, they said.

Since the fires began the smoke plume has spread to
cover an area that spans about 1,860 miles (3,000 km) from
east to west, according to a NASA satellite image from Aug 4.

If the smoke were in the United States, it would extend
approximately from San Francisco to Chicago, the scientists
said.

According to reports, 520 wildfires were burning
around central and western Russia on Wednesday.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, August 14, 2010 - 17:40

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