Fire Burning: Birmingham’s Lung Decay?

EarthzineDEVELOP Summer 2013 VPS, Original

Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Level 2 AOD product from NASA’s Terra satellite overlayed on a MODIS Level 1 true color composite obtained on May 29, 2007, over the Southeast United States.

Team Location: University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia; and Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Huntsville, Alabama
Binita KC (University of Georgia)
Swatantra Kethireddy (Jackson State University)
Jennifer Bell (University of Georgia)
Eric Dobbs (University of Alabama Huntsville)
Steve Padgett-Vasquez (University of Georgia)
Jeffrey Luvall, Ph.D. (NASA, Global Hydrology and Climate Center)
Marshall Shepherd, Ph.D. (University of Georgia)
Thomas L. Mote, Ph.D. (University of Georgia)
Past/Other Contributors:
Auryn Baruch (University of Georgia)
Yang Liu, Ph.D. (Emory University)
Air pollutants from the burning of wildland vegetation have adverse impacts on air quality, visibility, and public health. Fine particulate matter from smoke has been shown to cause respiratory and pulmonary ailments in susceptible populations. The Okefenokee Swamp fires were the largest fire complex in Florida and Georgia history. The fires began in Georgia in April 2007 and merged with another large fire in north Florida in May; a total of about 600,000 acres of land had burned by the time the fires were contained in July 2007. The low oxygen environment found in swamps such as the Okefenokee caused an incomplete combustion of vegetation leading to large quantities of particulates released into the troposphere. The burn scars from the Okefenokee fires were identified using Landsat 5 images.
With the use of NASA datasets such as Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD), the University of Georgia/Marshall Space Flight Center DEVELOP team analyzed the regional transport of PM 2.5 into Jefferson County, Alabama, from May 14 to June 3, 2007. The quality of Level 2 vs. Level 3 MODIS AOD data was assessed and used to derive PM 2.5 levels, which in turn were validated with ground-based observations. Because the spatial presence of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency PM 2.5 monitoring stations is sparse, pollution maps produced using spatial interpolation techniques may not alone represent the holistic picture of the studied phenomenon. For this reason, MODIS AOD products were used to accurately derive the estimated PM 2.5 levels at the surface for all of the areas that did not contain PM 2.5 monitors. True color composites created from MODIS Level 1B Radiance data and archive synoptic meteorological charts were used in qualitatively assessing the transport of smoke aerosols. Flux analysis using MODIS AOD was used to determine the amount of aerosol transported into Jefferson County compared to local source generation. In addition, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) data were used to increase the temporal resolution of the aerosol flux. Finally, emergency room visit data were used to assess the respiratory health of the Jefferson County population during the extreme aerosol event (Okefenokee fires).

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