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Satellite images of California fires show global smoke path – Los Angeles Times

Smoke from the West Coast’s ferocious firestorms continued to cause pollution problems in California and was expected to waft into Europe this week.

The historic fires have had air quality ramifications far and wide. The South Coast Air Quality Management District extended advisories for parts of the Southland for a 10th straight day. Onshore winds will probably begin moving smoke out of the South Coast Air Basin Wednesday afternoon. But conditions elsewhere remain grim.

Some areas around Bishop and Mammoth Lakes were listed as “beyond index,” meaning that “everyone should stay indoors and reduce activity levels,” according to air quality monitors. The air quality measurements reached 626, far beyond the 0-500 scale.

The inundation of smoke is severe enough to show up on satellite and is capturing the attention of scientists on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

“The fact that these fires are emitting so much pollution into the atmosphere that we can still see thick smoke over 8,000 kilometers [about 5,000 miles] away reflects just how devastating they have been in their magnitude and duration,” Mark Parrington, a senior scientist with the Europe-based Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, said in an article the agency posted Wednesday.

According to CAMS forecasts, smoke from the fires chewing through parts of California and the Pacific Northwest “is starting to cross the Atlantic again and will reach northern Europe later this week, as it did at the end of last week.” West Coast-originating smoke has previously been reported as far away as the Netherlands and Hamburg, Germany.

With all that smoke comes a tremendous amount of pollution, something to which Californians weary of hazy conditions and reddened skies can attest.

Readings taken over the last week have shown high-altitude concentrations of carbon monoxide that are more than 10 times above normal, according to NASA, with plumes originating near fires before entering the jet stream and being carried east.

Smoke from the Bobcat and El Dorado fires burning in Southern California continues to blanket the region, prompting the South Coast Air Quality Management District to issue its 10th straight day of advisories Wednesday.

Onshore winds were expected to begin moving smoke out of the South Coast Air Basin during the afternoon, the district said, but “modest smoke impacts” from Northern and Central California fires are likely to persist. Current air quality readings are lingering in the 150-200 range, which is considered unhealthful by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Downtown Portland, Ore., which has been subjected to particularly foul air quality because of nearby fires, was virtually deserted Tuesday afternoon.

Todd Piper, a valet at Embassy Suites by Hilton, said he stayed inside the hotel’s front door as much as possible to avoid the smoke.

“I feel like I’m more tired at the end of the day from breathing it,” he said.

Gone was the usual line outside Portland’s famous Voodoo Doughnut shop. That was fine with Brian Shackleford, 48, a visitor from Phoenix, who ducked in to buy one of its legendary bacon maple bars.

“I’m being cautious about going outside,” he said, “but I couldn’t pass this up.”

NASA is monitoring high-altitude carbon monoxide (CO) concentrations 10x higher than normal amounts as 28 major wildfires burn across California. Carbon monoxide is a pollutant that can persist in the atmosphere for about a month & travel great distances. https://t.co/hwnjwVY2LI pic.twitter.com/Pm0rswyR8O

— NASA Earth (@NASAEarth) September 15, 2020

NASA has started flying aircraft over California’s new burn areas, both to identify damaged structures and map fire-stripped landscapes that could be at risk of future landslides or other debris flows.

More than 4,200 structures have been destroyed statewide since Aug. 15 — the first day of a historic lightning siege that sparked some of the largest wildfires the state had seen, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“We had a perfect storm of meteorological factors come together that encouraged extreme burning,” Vincent Ambrosia, associate program manager for wildfire research in NASA’s Earth Applied Sciences Program, said in a statement. “That was layered on top of shifting climate patterns — a long-term drying and warming of both the air and vegetation — that is contributing to the growing trend we are seeing toward larger, higher-intensity fires in the U.S. West.”

The mammoth scale of California’s record firestorm speaks to that trend. So far this year, fires have scorched more than 3.3 million acres statewide — an area larger than the state of Connecticut.

Four of the six largest fires in recorded state history have ignited in the past month, according to Cal Fire.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that upkeep was a significant part of the equation — “we all recognize our responsibility, mutual responsibility, the federal government, the state government, private landowners, all of us doing more and doing better in terms of our vegetation management efforts, our forest management efforts … and that, of course, is being advanced in ways that we have not seen in the past.”

He reemphasized, though, that climate change had played a substantial role in setting the stage for California’s historic fire season.

“We need to reconcile the fact there are no Democratic thermometers and no Republican thermometers. There’s fact and there’s reality, as well as observed evidence,” he said during a news briefing. “It’s not a belief system. It’s an acknowledgment. The facts are the facts.”

That collection of colossal conflagrations includes the August Complex fire burning in Mendocino, Humboldt, Del Norte and Trinity counties — the biggest on record at more than 796,000 acres.

This year has also seen one of California’s most deadly fires: the North Complex fire near Oroville, whose death toll now stands at 15. Overall, 25 Californians have died in the recent firestorm.

The cost of fighting multiple large-scale fires across California neared $580 million as of Tuesday, already surpassing the money approved by the state in July for the entire fiscal year.

State officials this month set aside additional funds and can, if needed, tap into short-term cash reserves to cover the remaining costs.

“I just want to express our deepest condolences to the families that have lost loved ones and to the heroism of our first responders that have been out there doing their best to support evacuation efforts,” Newsom said.

Times staff writers Hayley Smith in Los Angeles, John Myers in Sacramento and Richard Read in Portland contributed to this report .

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Astonishing images

Take a look at astonishing images of the intricate structure of the sun – Tech Explorist

Studying the Sun’s magnetism is significant to understand the “space weather” created by the Sun.

Europe’s largest Solar Telescope, GREGOR, permits scientists to determine subtleties as little as 50 km on the Sun, which is a tiny portion of the solar diameter of 1.4 million km.

Now, the telescope has released unprecedented close-up images of the Sun — and they are a little bit terrifying. Operated by a German scientist at the Teide Observatory in Spain, the telescope has obtained new high-resolution images of the Sun’s intricate structure — the best captured by a European telescope.

 intricate structures of solar magnetic fields
Europe’s largest solar telescope GREGOR reveals intricate structures of solar magnetic fields in very high resolution. The image was taken at the wavelength of 516 nm. Credit: KIS

Dr. Lucia Kleint, who led the project and the German solar telescopes on Tenerife, said, “This was a fascinating and extremely challenging project. We completely redesigned the optics, mechanics, and electronics to achieve the best possible image quality in only one year. The project team achieved a major technical breakthrough in March this year, during the lockdown when they were stranded at the observatory and set up the optical laboratory from the ground up. Unfortunately, snow storms prevented solar observations. When Spain reopened in July, the team immediately flew back and obtained the Sun’s highest resolution images ever taken by a European telescope.”

Prof. Dr. Svetlana Berdyugina, professor at the Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg and Director of the Leibniz Institute for Solar Physics (KIS), said, “The project was rather risky because such telescope upgrades usually take years, but the great teamwork and meticulous planning have led to this success. Now we have a powerful instrument to solve puzzles on the Sun.”

The GREGOR telescope was inaugurated in 2012. In 2018, scientists began a complete upgrade, involving optics, alignment, instrumentation, mechanical upgrades for vibration reduction, updated control systems, building enhancements, and adapted management and policies. The telescope’s new optics will allow scientists to study magnetic fields, convection, turbulence, solar eruptions, and sunspots in great detail.

Journal Reference:
  1. L. Kleint, T. Berkefeld, M. Esteves, T. Sonner, R. Volkmer, K. Gerber, F. Krämer, O. Grassin, and S. Berdyugina, Astronomy & Astrophysics, DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/202038208

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images Stunning

Stunning new sun images show our star’s popcorn-like magnetic field structure – Live Science

A high-resolution GREGOR image of a sunspot, a cool, dark magnetic storm on the sun.

A high-resolution GREGOR image of a sunspot, a cool, dark magnetic storm on the sun.

(Image: © KIS)

Need a little more sun in your life?

German scientists have just finished upgrading a solar telescope called GREGOR at the Teide Observatory in the Canary Islands, and the result is a spectacular new set of images of our star.

“This was a very exciting, but also extremely challenging project,” Lucia Kleint, a scientist at the Leibniz Institute for Solar Physics in Freiburg, Germany and lead researcher on the project, said in a statement. “In only one year we completely redesigned the optics, mechanics and electronics to achieve the best possible image quality.” 

Related: World’s largest solar telescope produces never-before-seen image of our star

GREGOR began its observations in 2012 as Europe’s largest solar telescope and the upgrade project began in 2018. The upgrades included work on the telescope’s optics and control systems, repainting the observatory to reflect less light and interfere less with observations, and implementing new scheduling policies to improve the scientific output of observations.

All told, the telescope now allows scientists to capture features on the sun that are only 30 miles (50 kilometers) across, according to the statement. And since solar activity is currently on an upswing as the minimum point of the current 11-year solar cycle ends, there will be plenty for GREGOR to study.

GREGOR sunspot magnetic storm image

A new image from GREGOR shows magnetic structures on the sun. (Image credit: KIS)

“The project was rather risky because such telescope upgrades usually take years, but the great team work and meticulous planning have led to this success,” Svetlana Berdyugina, an astrophysicist at the Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg in Germany and director of the Leibniz Institute for Solar Physics, said in the same statement. “Now we have a powerful instrument to solve puzzles on the sun.”

The upgrades are described in a paper published Sept. 1 in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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images startling

Some of the most startling images of wildfires raging through Northern California – Los Angeles Times

Favorable weather conditions gave crews on the front lines of the historic firestorm in Northern California a boost, as officials reported scant overnight growth on two of the largest blazes the state has seen.

Although the progress is encouraging, the widespread wildfires continue to take a dramatic toll, and not just in terms of acres burned.

Flames consume both sides of a segment of Lake Berryessa in Napa County.

Flames consume both sides of a segment of Lake Berryessa in Napa County.

(Josh Edelson / AFP-Getty Images)

The fatalities among the fires stands at seven, including five who perished as a result of the LNU Lightning Complex fire — three in Napa County and two in Solano County — and one in the CZU Lightning Complex fire burning in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. A pilot also died in a helicopter crash in Fresno County while on a water-dropping mission for the Hills fire.

More than 136,000 people across the state have been evacuated from their homes, officials said Tuesday evening. Seven people also have been reported missing in the area of the CZU Lightning Complex, according to Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Chris Clark.

An American flag blows in front of a burning home in Vacaville, Calif.

An American flag blows in front of a burning home in Vacaville, Calif.

(Josh Edelson / AFP-Getty Images)

A scorched home in Napa County.

A scorched home in Napa County.

(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Veterinary technician Brianna Jeter comforts a llama injured in a wildfire in Vacaville, Calif.

Veterinary technician Brianna Jeter comforts a llama injured in a wildfire in Vacaville, Calif.

(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Flames consume a cabin at a Napa County winery.

Flames consume a cabin at a Napa County winery.

(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Debris from a fire is in the eye of a horse in Vacaville, Calif.

Debris from a fire is in the eye of a horse in Vacaville, Calif.

(Jose Carlos Fajardo / Associated Press)

A dead cow in Vacaville, Calif.

A dead cow in Vacaville, Calif.

(Josh Edelson / AFP-Getty Images)

A home burns in Napa County.

A home burns in Napa County.

(Josh Edelson / AFP-Getty Images)

A car burns in Vacaville, Calif.

A car burns in Vacaville, Calif.

(Josh Edelson / AFP-Getty Images )

Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

People watch a wildfire in Healdsburg, Calif.

People watch a wildfire in Healdsburg, Calif.

(Josh Edelson / AFP-Getty Images )

Along Big Basin Highway in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Along Big Basin Highway in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

A resident guards a house in Napa County.

A resident guards a house in Napa County.

(Josh Edelson / AFP-Getty Images )

An airplane drops fire retardant over homes in Napa County.

An airplane drops fire retardant over homes in Napa County.

(Josh Edelson / AFP-Getty Images )

A fire truck drives through flames in Napa County.

A fire truck drives through flames in Napa County.

(Josh Edelson / AFP-Getty Images)

Firefighters protect a home in the Berryessa Estates neighborhood of unincorporated Napa County.

Firefighters protect a home in the Berryessa Estates neighborhood of unincorporated Napa County.

(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Firefighters in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Boulder Creek.

Firefighters in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Boulder Creek.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Family members embrace at the burned remains of their home in Vacaville, Calif.

Family members embrace at the burned remains of their home in Vacaville, Calif.

(Josh Edelson / AFP-Getty Images )

A sign thanks first responders in Bucktown, Calif.

A sign thanks first responders in Bucktown, Calif.

(Josh Edelson / AFP-Getty Images)

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images Jaw-dropping

Jaw-dropping images of Jupiter from ground and space display its massive storms – SYFY WIRE

Jupiter is not here to screw around.

Concurrent observations of the solar system’s mightiest planet by Hubble Space Telescope, the Gemini Observatory, and the Juno spacecraft show that Jupiter’s thunderstorms are ridiculously huge, towering skyward for 80 kilometers or more, powered by heat from below and water in the atmosphere. That’s five times taller than similar storm systems on Earth.

I technically live in the midwestern plains of the U.S., and I’ve seen some powerful and terrifying storms. Jupiter’s make these look like friendly breezes.

Juno has orbited Jupiter since July 2016. It’s on a long, elliptical orbit that takes it from several million kilometers out to so close to the planet that it almost skims the cloud tops, screaming past at 200,000 kilometers per hour. It’s equipped with a lot of different detectors, including one that senses radio waves emitted when lightning zaps in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

That happens a lot. A recent study showed Jupiter crackles with lightning from between 2,000 to 60,000 times per second. Per second. That means there must be a lot of storm cloud activity on the planet too, and that’s where Gemini and Hubble come in. They observed Jupiter at the same time Juno is on closest approach, to get the best possible observations of these storms.

Gemini North is an 8.1-meter behemoth in Hawaii and is sensitive to infrared light. Looking in thermal infrared (4.7 microns, a wavelength about five times longer than the reddest light our eyes can see) — essentially making a heat map of the planet — Gemini saw this:

Holy Jovian emissivity! That’s gorgeous.

It’s the highest-resolution image of Jupiter ever taken from Earth, with features as small as 400 km across visible (for comparison, the planet is 140,000 km across). They accomplished this through “lucky imaging,” taking a lot of short exposures (it helps that Jupiter is bright) to minimize the blurring that our own atmosphere produces. They can then pick the highest-quality images from the 350 or so taken to assemble into a mosaic that produces such a sharp map of the planet.

You can see the familiar banding, but it looks more like a jack-o-lantern in these colors. Bright features are warmer, and dark cooler. The interior of Jupiter is very hot, left over from its formation billions of years ago, and that heat leaks out where the atmosphere is clear. Where it’s dark it’s cloudy, and where it’s bright the air is clear.

Hubble, on the other hand, sees in visible light (as well as into the ultraviolet and infrared, but not as far in IR as Gemini). It sees sunlight reflecting off the clouds, so it sees the cloud tops. There’s haze as well in the air there, which is good at scattering ultraviolet light, so Hubble can detect that as well.

Along with Juno measuring the lightning, this gives scientists a three-dimensional view of the storm clouds! They can combine the power of these three machines to figure out how deep the clouds go, where they are creating lightning, and even the composition of the clouds.

What they found sounds familiar: Dry cool air sinks, while warm air laden with water vapor rises and makes clouds. This is pretty much how convection works in a cumulonimbus cloud on Earth, too. However, while these thunderclouds on Earth reach heights of 15 km from their base or so, Jupiter’s are 80 kilometers high. Yegads.

Convection like this is somewhat rare on Jupiter, but at different latitudes over the past few years wind conditions have been right to get them. Lightning is in part the result of liquid condensing in these rising and falling winds, and the only liquid known to exist at these atmospheric heights is water. This makes these clouds seem more Earth-like as well, except in their colossal scale.

Speaking of huge things, they also took a look at Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a persistent vortex that has been spinning in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere for centuries. Juno has probed it deeply, and planetary scientists have learned a lot about it. Despite that, a longstanding mystery about it is that dark regions are seen inside the Spot, and it wasn’t known if they were dark clouds made of some unknown material, or clear spots in the air allowing us to peer deeper into the atmosphere where it’s darker.

The concurrent Gemini and Hubble observations have apparently solved this. Hubble sees the location of the dark spots clearly, and Gemini can sense the warmth coming from them. What they found, at least in this instance, is that the dark regions are warmer, consistent with them being clear patches in the air, gaps between the clouds allowing heat from within to leak upwards. This will help scientists better understand the powerful forces shaping this single storm that is bigger than worlds.

Observations like these are called synoptic, meaning in general “observing together.” It’s a powerful method of learning a lot more about an object or process, because the Universe likes to do things that emit different kinds of light at the same time. Between the radio flashes of lightning, the infrared emission from warmth, and the optical sunlight bouncing off the clouds, we can understand the mechanics of Jupiter’s immensely complex atmosphere, and see how all the pieces fit together.

Over a thousand Earths could fit inside Jupiter. It’s immense. There are a lot of pieces, and a lot to see.

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