This image from the OMI instrument on NASA’s Aura satellite shows nitrogen dioxide levels from June 27 to 29, 2011 in New Mexico and Arizona pertaining to three large fires. The highest levels of NO2 were from the Las Conchas fire (red). The NO2 is measured by the number of molecules in a cubic centimeter. Credit: NASA/James Acker
ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) — A smattering of summer rain gave a boost to
firefighters battling a huge forest fire near Los Alamos, giving
authorities enough confidence Sunday to allow about 12,000 people to
return home for the first time in nearly a week.
rolled into town, honking their horns and waving to firefighters as the
word got out that the roadblocks were lifted and the narrow two-lane
highway cut into the side of a mesa leading to Los Alamos was open. They
had fled en masse last week as the fast-moving fire approached the city
and its nuclear laboratory.
you! Thank you! Thank you!” yelled Amy Riehl, an assistant manager at
the Smith’s grocery store, as she arrived to help keep the store open
for returning residents.
scary, but all of the resources here this time, they were ready. They
did a magnificent job,” said Michael Shields, his eyes tearing up as he
returned to his apartment in the heart of the town.
town was last evacuated because of a devastating fire in 2000 that
destroyed 200 homes and several businesses and damaged utilities and
other county enterprises. This time, residents returned to a town that
is completely intact, although the fire scorched 63 homes west of town
along with 37 outbuildings and other structures.
fire erupted June 26 in northern New Mexico when a tree fell onto
powerlines, fire officials announced Sunday. Fueled by an exceptionally
dry season in the Southwest and erratic winds, the fire has mushroomed
to 189 square miles and was 19 percent contained as of Sunday night.
the threat to Los Alamos and the nation’s premier nuclear research lab
had passed, the wildfire raging was threatening sacred sites of American
By satellite, NASA tracks big jump in localized pollution levels
Aura Satellite has provided a view of nitrogen dioxide levels coming
from the fires in New Mexico and Arizona. Detecting nitrogen dioxide is
important because it reacts with sunlight to create low-level ozone or
smog and poor air quality.
fierce Las Conchas fire threatened the town and National Laboratory in
Los Alamos, while smoke from Arizona’s immense Wallow Fire and the
Donaldson Fire in central New Mexico also created nitrogen dioxides
(NO2) detectable by the Ozone Measuring Instrument (OMI) that flies
aboard NASA’s Aura satellite.
image showing nitrogen dioxide levels from June 27 to 29, 2011 was
created from OMI data using the NASA Giovanni system by Dr. James Acker
at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The highest
levels of NO2 were from the Las Conchas fire. The NO2 is measured by the
number of molecules in a cubic centimeter.
ozone (smog) is hazardous to the health of both plants and animals, and
ozone in association with particulate matter causes respiratory
problems in humans.
July 1, Inciweb reported that the Las Conchas fire is currently burning
on 93,678 acres and was three percent contained. An infrared flyover at
4 a.m. MDT on July 1 reported 103,842 acres burned. InciWeb is the
“Incident Information System” website that reports wildfire conditions
throughout the country.
Donaldson fire is estimated to cover 72, 650 acres and is located to
the southeast of the Las Conchas fire. Inciweb reported on July 1 that
the fire is burning in the Lincoln National Forest and Mescalero-Apache
Tribal lands and is not accessible. The terrain is steep and rocky. It
is located about 10 miles northwest of Ruidoso Downs, N.M.
reported on July 1 that “smoke from the fire is impacting the
communities of Ruidoso, Ruidoso Downs, Capitan, Lincoln, Hondo, Fort
Stanton, Picacho, Tinnie, San Patricio, Glencoe and other surrounding
areas.” In east central Arizona, the Wallow Fire is now 95 percent
contained, according to InciWeb. Total acres burned are 538,049,
including 15,407 acres in New Mexico.
Emissions from coal-burning power plants located in northwest New Mexico were also visible in the image.
data is archived at the NASA Goddard Earth Sciences Data and
Information Services Center (GES DISC), and is provided by KNMI, the
Koninklijk Nederlands Meteorologisch Instituut (Royal Netherlands
Meteorological Institute). Dr. P.F. Levelt is the Principal Investigator
of OMI, Dr. J. Tamminen is the Finnish Co-PI, and Dr. P.K. Bhartia
leads the U.S. OMI science team. Dr. James Gleason (NASA) and Pepijn
Veefkind (KNMI) are PIs of the OMI NO2 product.
Aura Satellite’s OMI instrument
NO2 and ground level ozone pollution
SOURCES: The Associated Press and NASA