The Southwestern US has seen several fires already this season, and the VIIRS instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite and products derived from several of its channels can help aid forecasters in smoke and hotspot detection, particularly at night.
For example, from the early morning of June 21st, we captured a few views from different VIIRS products of smoke and hotspots from the West Fork Complex, a series of fires amassing about 30,000 acres in southwest Colorado, as well as another smaller fire a few counties away. Shortwave IR shows several hotspots clearly, even along the edge of the swath, which is a particular strength of the VIIRS instrument. The large hotspot in the lower left is the West Fork Complex and the one east of it is the East Peak fire.
The low light VIIRS Day-Night Band Radiance image at 0721 UTC shows what appears to be smoke coming from the location of those hotspots. The outline of the East Peak fire is also clearly visible. However, using just this single channel image, it is difficult to be certain if this is smoke, or exactly to what extent the smoke is spreading.
The Radiance RGB helps support the suspicion of smoke by indicating the distinction between high cold clouds and low warm material, although it appears some smoke is becoming entrained in the nearby colder clouds.
Longwave IR also confirms that most of that material coming off or near the hotspots is not cloud cover.
Further interrogation using some of our other VIIRS-derived products revealed interesting results. The Nighttime Microphysics product and the Dust RGB bring out the same location of colors not often seen in those products that can possibly be physically interpreted as optically dense smoke that is cooling off as it is rising (bright pink in the Nighttime Microphysics and pale yellow in the Dust RGB). Perhaps further examination of these products during the fire weather season will yield other interesting findings and useful applications of these products.