MODIS Observes Myrtle Beach Wildfires

Last week, over 15,000 acres of land were scorched during a series of wildfires near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  Eastern Horry County, South Carolina was placed under a smoke and poor air quality advisory, issued by the NWS forecast office in Wilmington, NC.  Air quality issues were spread across North and South Carolina as surface winds carried the smoke beyond the fire’s coastal location.

Although geostationary satellite data can provide more frequent snapshots of wildfire areas, MODIS data are beneficial with superior resolution in the visible bands.  Here, 0.5km (500m) resolution data is depicted as an image overlay between the 3.9 micron and true color data provided by SPoRT.  If viewed alone, the true color image is clear and vibrant, however, the overlay of the primarily grayscale 3.9 micron image mutes some colors.  The 3.9 micron image detects “hot spots”, viewed here in an infrared satellite image color curve so that “hot” is depicted as the darkest shades of black.  Adjacent to these hot spots, MODIS visible and true color data show smoke eminating from each fire and moving down wind.  Although the Myrtle Beach area likely contained the largest fire, smaller and possibly agricultural fires are seen in hot spot imagery further down the coast later in the day.  SPoRT provides unique NASA products such as MODIS data to NWS Forecast Offices, which can then combine satellite data with GIS tools and shapefiles within their AWIPS visualization suite in order to issue timely advisories or support disaster response and management.

Color composite of MODIS true color data (haze, smoke, clouds) and 3.9 micron hot spot imagery (dark pixels) observed at 18:57 UTC on 22 April 2009.

Color composite of MODIS true color data (haze, smoke, clouds) and 3.9 micron hot spot imagery (dark pixels) observed at 18:57 UTC on 23 April 2009. Note that the fire near Plantersville, SC in Georgetown County is no longer active.

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