Jones, TA, Christopher, SA (2010). Satellite and Radar Remote Sensing of Southern Plains Grass Fires: A Case Study. JOURNAL OF APPLIED METEOROLOGY AND CLIMATOLOGY, 49(10), 2133-2146.
Many large grass fires occurred in north Texas and southern Oklahoma on 9 April 2009, destroying hundreds of homes and businesses and burning thousands of acres of grasslands, producing large smoke and debris plumes that were visible from various remote sensing platforms. At the same time, strong westerly winds were transporting large amounts of dust into the region, mixing with the smoke and debris already being generated. This research uses surface- and satellite-based remote sensing observations of this event to assess the locations of fires and the spatial distribution of smoke and dust aerosols. The authors present a unique perspective by analyzing radar observations of fire debris in conjunction with the satellite analysis of submicrometer smoke aerosol particles. Satellite data clearly show the location of the individual fires and the downwind smoke plumes as well as the large dust storm present over the region. In particular, Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aerosol optical thickness at 0.55 mu m within the dust plume was around 0.5, and it increased to greater than 1.0 when combined with smoke. Using the difference in 11-versus 12-mu m brightness temperature data combined with surface observations, the large extent of the dust plume was evident through much of north-central Texas, where visibilities were low and the 11-12-mu m brightness temperature difference was negative. Conversely, smoke plumes were characterized by higher reflectance at 0.6 mu m (visible wavelength). Cross sections of radar data through the several smoke and debris plumes indicated the burnt debris reached up to 5 km into the atmosphere. Plume height output from modified severe storm algorithms produced similar values. Since smoke aerosols are smaller and lighter when compared with the debris, they were likely being transported even higher into the atmosphere. These results show that the combination of satellite and radar data offers a unique perspective on observing the characteristics and evolution of smoke and debris plume emanating from grass fire events.