Fires around Moscow: A Satellite Perspective

From a University of Leicester press release

Satellite photos of Russian wildfires

Space scientists at the University of Leicester have released satellite images of vast plumes of smoke emanating from the peat bog fires which are currently sweeping across central and western Russia.

Using equipment on the European satellite MetOp-A researchers from the University’s Earth Observation Science group have analysed and released still images taken on 4, 8 and 9 August.

Each satellite image is available as both a true colour image and as a false colour version in which the smoke shows up as yellow. Using this technique, the extent of the smoke plumes and their encirclement of Moscow becomes obvious.

As well as demonstrating the massive extent of the smoke clouds across Western Russia, the satellite images indicate another interesting phenomenon: pyrocumulonimbus clouds. These are water clouds, caused by hot air rising directly from a fire, which can trap airborne pollution and transport it for thousands of kilometres. The image from 8 August clearly shows these clouds moving towards Finland in the extreme top left of the picture.

Dr David Moore from the Earth Observation Science Group said,: “Using measurements from spaceborne instruments, we have been able to observe the vast extent of the smoke released from numerous wildfires in Western Russia. The pollutants contained within these smoke plumes can have a profound effect on both the local and regional air quality and atmospheric chemistry. A key aspect of our ongoing investigations will be to quantify the impact the fires have had on indirect greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon monoxide.”

The Earth Observation Science (EOS) group is based in the University of Leicester’s Space Research Centre and includes staff from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Geography. Earlier this year the EOS group released satellite images of the volcanic ice clouds which enveloped Europe after an eruption in Iceland.

Using data supplied by EUMETSAT from the MetOp-A and METEOSAT weather satellites, the EOS group have turned the three true-colour images on the left (taken on, top to bottom, 4, 8 and 9 August 2010), into false colour images which reveal the full extent of the Russian problem. All that yellow – that’s smoke, that is.

(Click on any image to see it full size.)

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32 thoughts on “Fires around Moscow: A Satellite Perspective

  1. Correct me if I am wrong. I have thousand of miles on mountain bikes, hiking and jeep trails in my history.
    I see the Sierra Club and it’s band of vipers fight to close access roads, logging roads, double track trails and access. Then they attack clearing of underbrush. Great forrestry and management shows when it comes to fire incidents.
    In Russia I picture even more neglect. Russia has less resources, population density and constructive planning.
    If a forrest doesn’t get maintained, nature will fire up the clean up crews. The fireweed comes and then it comes back. It is so beautiful to tour Alaskan national parks and see progress. The natural recovery from a burn 1 year ago. 2 years ago 5 years ago and so on. It re grows. My dad fought fires in California. Often times people argue they make good decisions on management and they were horrible decisions. I am sad for Russia. I also hope they don’t swing the extreme opposite direction and get infested by the green activists like the Sierra Club that will do more damage of a different nature.

  2. Some years ago in southern England, before stubble burning was banned, clouds could be seen forming over the rising columns of smoke. Fascinating!

  3. Yes, peat fires make lots of smoke. There are a lot of swamps on the Moskow River. I can’t get excited.

  4. Putting out a peat fire is as almost as difficult to put out as a coal seam fire and can smolder for years, putting out lots of aerosols and soot (inefficient combustion), which will have more effect on climate than CO. Perhaps the only way to stop it it to contain it within wide and deep firebreaks to ensure the fire won’t spread deeper then head into the heart of it to expose it to more oxygen to the increase rate/efficiency of combustion and exhaust its fuel source.

  5. “Where did the ~26,500 fires come from?”
    A very hot and dry summer. A lot of peat bogs were partially drained during the Stalin period, but never used for anything. Almost no firefighting capacity. And a general disregard of fire precautions.
    The largest forest fire in recent Swedish history which burned down large parts of Tyresta National Park south of Stockholm was caused by …… a russian diplomat.

  6. Peat fires burn slowly and incompletely, they release a significant amount of soot, and the soot can travel for thousands of miles.
    Any bets on what effect this will have on ice?

  7. Henry Chance –
    San Diego had a series of big fires 3-4 years ago (I do not live there, but have family there). When we visited shortly after the fires, the hills were blackened and there was not much vegetation (of course in SD, there is not a lot to start with). This past February when we went back, you could not see where the fires had been.
    Nature is resilient as we see this year in the gulf. Yes, some poor asthmatic birds will die. But the earth will abide.

  8. The reason for the warming in Russia is simple, ash aerosol absorbs Ultraviolet. The sunspots are making it, and there aren’t many/any reflective sulfates in the NH stratosphere presently. Eyjafjallajökull loaded the troposphere with ash, ash aerosol and particulate. That is not global warming, its regional warming.

  9. Bah, soon it will have rained and it will all be flushed down. These fires come and go. Some trees depend on it for their reproduction.
    For the moment this does post a problem for people there and in part, I believe, it is because of drainage and cuts on personnel. But it is in the summer news every year; last year it was Greece. And always hundreds or thousands of square kilometers are reported as ‘lost’; but they’re not, they get reinvigorated.
    Peat fires indeed do burn slowly. Some of them do so all the time and they probably have been doing so forever. We live between fire and ice; it’s because of that most likely that we do so at all.

  10. Russia’s Wildfire Disaster: Fury Grows over Moscow’s Failures and Mounting Deaths – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International
    08/05/2010
    “For several days, the government avoided admitting just how serious the fires had become. Moscow only accepted aid from abroad on Tuesday, when fire-fighting planes arrived from Ukraine and Azerbaijan. Italy sent more on Wednesday. The fires have been caused by a heat wave that has hit Russia this summer. Since the beginning of July temperatures have constantly been well above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), and there is no prospect of cooler weather any time soon.
    However, the Russian government shares at least some of the blame for allowing the fires to spread so quickly. During Vladmir Putin’s presidency, the forestry service was practically dismantled. The 70,000 forest rangers who might have registered the fires and even been able to put them out had all been let go.
    And the fire-fighting infrastructure has also been scandalously neglected. There are only 22,000 professional fire fighters in the whole of Russia, compared to more than 27,000 in Germany, a far smaller country. And there is nothing like the system of volunteer fire fighters, such as the one in Germany that encompasses 1 million people. In addition, Russia’s fire-fighting vehicles and equipment are often outmoded. Many people in Russia’s provinces have had to defend their villages and homes against the flames on their own, at times using their bare hands.”
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,710291,00.html

  11. Anthea Collins – stubble fires were banned, much to the chagrin of glider pilots. Best thermal I ever had was 1400 feet per minute over a stubble fire. Fly into the smoke and hang on. That one spat me out at 6100 feet for an easy glide home to Benalla that day.

  12. What Mr Stonebeat said, drainage problem.
    When you drain water from the ground and when you drain away water that’s supposed to go into the ground you get, in worst case scenario, California the only place that lacks enough water on the entire planet that’s more concerned over wether or not to legalize soft drugs or not rather than collecting more rain water as in building more artificial lakes and diverting rainwater from the storm drains into the actual ground instead of the diversion into the ocean where it apparently doesn’t do much good any way due to all the water already present and accounted for, but who’d figure that?

  13. In Russia, when things like this happen, the winter tends to be a real bear. Sometimes, even when things like this don’t happen, the winter is a real bear. Don’t these bogs burn about every 100K years? Maybe it has something to do with the end of interglacial periods, and the super concentration of co2 (and soot) in the air?

  14. So, during the last ice age, did the ice push the northern forests south into a giant brush pile ? Or was it absorbed and flushed out during the retreat.
    What happened to the biosphere, that existed before the glaciation?
    Flushed into the ocean ?
    If a brush pile, did it burn ?

  15. "1DandyTroll says:

    August
    13, 2010 at 4:16 pm


    What Mr Stonebeat said, drainage problem.
    When you drain water from the ground and when you drain away water
    that’s supposed to go into the ground you get, in worst case scenario,
    California the only place that lacks enough water on the entire planet
    that’s more concerned over wether or not to legalize soft drugs or not
    rather than collecting more rain water as in building more artificial lakes
    and diverting rainwater from the storm drains into the actual ground instead
    of the diversion into the ocean where it apparently doesn’t do much good any
    way due to all the water already present and accounted for, but who’d figure
    that?"

    Thanks for aknowledging!
    I live in a peat area but fortunately water management is quite good here.
    Still I know the stuff burns like hell once dry and ignited. Once my country
    used to live off of it.

  16. Gwen Dyr believes the Russian fires are caused by global warming. He also believes that for every 1 deg c in warming the world loses 10% of it’s food production. I believe everything he says. So if the world cooled by 5 deg c there would be a 50% increase in world food production. We are talking global average temperature, Hansen stuff.

  17. Looks like the million acre fire we had in No. Calif 2 years ago. The incident commanders early on decided to just let the big fires burn together, thinking they would put each other out. When it dawned on them that they had a 50 mile long fire front, they finally lost thier nerve and decided to put it out. 2 months later.
    Bad forest practices, greenie lawsuits choking off previous burn cleanup, what-me-worry fire policies and 2,000 dry lightning strikes make for quite the fire drill.
    I’m sorry other countries have fallen into our own bad habits. Fire sucks, but wanton forest policies are a real crime.

  18. I am about to leave on a 25 day tour of Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and then picking up a cruise from St, Petersburg to Moscow. Cruise commences on Sept 3rd. SCENIC TOURS refuse to address the Moscow issue. What should I do? HELP.

  19. Burns Bog in Delta, near Vancouver, Canada, catches on fire relatively often. It dries out on its own without being drained of its water by humans.
    From Wikipedia
    ” Major blazes occurred in 1977, 1990 (twice), 1994, 1996 and 2005″

  20. Piers Corbyn suggests that a similar set of conditions occured 132 years ago. A quick google 1878/9 weather
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gale_of_1878
    A tropical storm formed off the coast of Jamaica on October 18, 1878, and moved nearly due north. On October 20, the storm reached hurricane status and on October 21, the hurricane struck Cuba. The damage in Cuba was only minor and three schooners sank. The hurricane continued moving northeast and made landfall in North Carolina where it wrecked a schooner and several steamers. The storm later continued inland moving at speeds between 40-50 mph, carrying hurricane force winds as far as Richmond, Virginia, before merging with an extratropical storm over New England.
    http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/fulltext/bd1881/p170.htm
    “The winter of 1878/9 proved long and unusually severe, inflicting great hardships upon the people” (isle-of-man)

  21. I’m from the IPCC…what address do we send the Carbon Bill to?
    Makes a mockery of any cutting of Co2 in reality.
    lets see theres the aus fires, Canadas, spains, the volcanos all over the place and now Russia.
    and we????? are to blame.
    yeah sure, rave on delerious.
    the Libs in aus are trying to bribe Farmers with 500mill over X years for carbon sinks.
    hysterical! they send many broke tying up land and trees for Kyoto with NO recopmpense and the loss of many farms and lives.
    and now are trying to use the same idiocy to gain their votes.

  22. Back in the early ’80’s and as a teenager in Scotland it was just about possible some nights to pick up on AM the Armed Forces Network *live* baseball commentary broadcast to West Germany. Lanny Dykstra and Darryl Strawberry (??) were prominent. Still, it was live sport and at 3am who needs sleep? A couple of dial turns later with micro-adjustment sometimes brought Radio Moscow, with Vladimir Posner and ‘Moscow Mailbag’. Felt like rebel stuff –
    Yeah, later my passport was stamped ‘CCCP”, same as it’s just a stamp as tourist in Leningrad/St Petersburg. It’d be some thing to see Russian – or Chinese – derived data.
    Here in UK, energy policy has long lacked any direction, even nerve; as a net gazzillion producer we fall foul to tariffs and business take. In Scottish terms, we have a superceeding pledge as Gov for 80% CO2 emissions reduction by 2030. Norway knows this well – a honey-pot counted in many billions, derived from oil. A legacy based upon smart banking practices.
    Meanwhile, it ranks purile – in every corner. Ha, taxpayers dosh funds staff umbrellas and bikes.
    See where the money go’s? – see http://climatechange.sustainable-scotland.net/documents/annual-reports/ClackmannanshireCouncil-ScolandsClimateChangeDeclaration-AnnualReport2009.pdf
    ps. bring back Gail Coombs. *** Tough get going …….. Much missed.

  23. Peat bog fire in Russia (Moscow) was proved very serious this year are somewhat in 2002, but these peat area is existing since Stalin periods. the temperature of Moscow raised this year due to Iceland volcano ash. Why Mr Putin is blamed, just because he diverted forest fire department wasting money to some constructive use for prosperity of Russia. Some natural disturbance (SMOG) some trees burnt and some summer cottage will reappear soon again. it is nature and we have to tolerate it. i am in Pakistan and there is a serious flood now experts says 505 children of total population will definitely die due to flood effects. it is nature…
    http://www.kazmis.weebly.com

  24. my brother is real happy he is not back in old moscow, right now he is on some boat some place in the Pacifica. but its not unknown to have up to 1500 old people die in the summer season.

  25. I tried to leave a link on Climate Progress about the wildfires that had a quote from a Russian scientist categorically stating that the fires were NOT due to global warming.
    Ol’ Joe didn’t have the balls to let it through moderation, and it got deleted.
    Still, I tried….
    (BTW I’ve lost the link. My own fault, I’m afraid)

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