Carbon Monoxide from Biomass Burning

Carbon Monoxide from Biomass Burning

This pair of images shows levels of carbon monoxide at the atmospheric pressure level of 700 millibars (roughly 12,000 feet in altitude) over the continent of South America, as observed by the Measurements Of Pollution In The Troposphere (MOPITT) sensor flying aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft. Data for producing the image on the left were acquired on March 3, 2000, and for the image on the right on September 7, 2000. Blue pixels show low values, yellows show intermediate values, and the red to pink and then white pixels are progressively higher values.

In the lefthand image (March 3), notice the fairly low levels of carbon monoxide over the entire continent. The slightly higher equatorial values are the result of burning emissions in sub-Saharan Africa that are convected at the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and spread by the trade winds. Also, notice the effect of the elevated surface topography across the Andes Mountains running north to south along the western coastline. (In this region, white pixels show no data.)

In the righthand image (September 7), a large carbon monoxide plume is seen over Brazil, produced primarily by biomass burning across Amazonia and lofted into the atmosphere by strong cloud convection. The generally higher carbon monoxide levels as compared to March are both the result of South American fire emissions and the transport of carbon monoxide across the Atlantic Ocean from widespread biomass burning over Southern Africa.

These images were produced using MOPITT data, which are currently being validated. These data were assimilated into an atmospheric chemical transport model using wind vectors provided by the National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). Although there is good confidence in the relative seasonal values and geographic variation measured by MOPITT, that team anticipates their level of confidence will improve further with ongoing intensive validation campaigns and comparisons with in situ and ground-based spectroscopic measurements.

Images courtesy David Edwards and John Gille, MOPITT Science Team, NCAR