Wildfires. Credit: lassedesignen

Smoke from Canadian fires seen over Europe

13 June 2015 21:00 UTC

Wildfires. Credit: lassedesignen
Wildfires. Credit: lassedesignen

On 13 June smoke from wildfires in Canada travelled over parts of Northern Europe.

Last Updated

14 September 2022

Published on

13 June 2015

By Jochen Kerkmann, Phil Nolan and Sancha Lancaster (EUMETSAT) and Ivan Smiljanic (DHMZ )

For several weeks, large wildfires burned throughout the western part of Canada, with most of the fires located in northern Alberta and parts of northern Saskatchewan. Smoke started to move eastwards on 9 June, due to the heat from the fire taking the ash high up into the atmosphere, where it got caught in upper-level winds.

The smoke travelled over parts of the US, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia, before reaching the Mid-Atlantic states on 10 June where it stayed in the lower atmosphere and was visible from the ground as haze.

By 13 June the smoke caught in the upper atmosphere, travelled over the Atlantic and could be seen in Meteosat-10 Natural Colour RGB imagery moving over northern Scotland, along the Norwegian coast, over Finland, then towards Russia.

Image comparison

Natural Colour RGB image from 13 June with streamlines compare1

Figure 1: Comparison of Meteosat-10 Natural Colour RGB with and without streamlines.

Smoke typically appears bluish (cyan) on the Natural Colour RGB (Figure 1, left), because smoke particles are very small compared to dust, and is more visible early morning or late evening, when there are good forward scattering viewing conditions.

The meandering appearance in this case (indicated by the red arrows) confirms it was a high-level feature — smoke and ash typically gets lined up in jets and deformation zones, creating the stripes. Note: Stripes also form in the case of high level ash/SO2 plumes after volcanic eruptions, as can be seen in this Kasatochi case from 2008.

The Meteosat-10 RGB with streamlines at 300hPa overlaid (Figure 1, right) confirmed the smoke overlapped with the position of the high level jet.

The smoke's progress over Europe can also be seen in the Meteosat-10 Natural Colour RGB animation below, starting at the 50 second mark.

 Meteosat-7 Visible, 13 June 21:00 UTC
Figure 2: Meteosat-7 Visible, 13 June 21:00 UTC

The Meteosat-7 Visible image from the same time (Figure 2) also shows leader of the smoke trail very well.

 Estimation of height of the stream over low level clouds in Northern Sea.
Figure 3: Estimation of height of the stream over low level clouds in Northern Sea.

Thia event was widely discussed and analysed by experts around the globe.

Post-event analysis undertaken by Ján Kaňák, from the Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute, confirmed that the smoke was high up in the atmosphere, at approximately 12km.

This estimation (Figure 3) is based on Sun elevation and measurement of shadow shift.

Scott Bachmeier, from CIMSS, also undertook in-depth analysis of the event using satellite imagery and data from EUMETSAT and NASA. Wildfire smoke: from Alaska to Norway, via the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans



 Met-10, 17 July 2015, 06:00 UTC
Figure 4: Meteosat-10 Visible image, 17 July 06:00 UTC
 Met-10, 17 July 2015, 19:00 UTC
Figure 5: Meteosat-10 Natural Colour RGB (zoomed), 17 July 19:00 UTC

Smoke plumes from the wildfires in Canada and Alaska continued to move around the globe in July, as can be seen in Figures 4 and 5 taken on 17 July. The plumes wrapped all the way around the Arctic circle in less than two weeks.

An animated series of images from the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS) on NASA's Suomi NPP satellite shows the progression of smoke plumes from 1 July–14 July around much of the Northern Hemisphere.

Additional content

Canadian Fires Send Smoke Over the US (NASA Earth Observatory)
Smoke Over the Mid-Atlantic (NASA Earth Observatory)
Smoke From Canadian Wildfires Enhances Sunsets Across the Carolinas (Accuweather)
PyroCb in Western Alberta (CIMSS)
N.W.T. fires at almost triple the average number so far this year (CBS Canada)