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Dust, Ash, & Fire

Dust in the Wind

Satellites are important tools for tracking and studying aerosol particles in the atmosphere made of dust, smoke from wildfires, and volcanic ash. These types of particles can not only affect human health and safety but can also affect the weather and climate by cooling or warming the Earth as well as enhancing or preventing cloud formation. Collectively, these phenomena are monitored by special sensors onboard our geostationary satellites.

Satellite view of a California wildfire
A smoke plume rises from 2019's Kincade Fire in California.

How we track each one

Image of Saharan Dust
Satellites help scientists track and study dust aerosol particles in the atmosphere. They can affect health, safety, weather, and climate as well as enhance or prevent cloud formation.
How satellites track dust
Image of the earth
Volcanic ash is hazardous to health, aviation, infrastructure, and the economy. Satellites monitor volcanoes the most isolated areas of the planet and observe changes that may signal an impending eruption as well the location of debris that may result.
How satellites track ash
GOES West GeoColor imagery of Sonoma County, California and the Kincade Fire, Oct. 2019.
Satellite imagery allow us to see where fire smoke plumes are, how a fire is growing and moving, and its temperature. It also shows burn scars, or areas burned by fire.
How satellites monitor fires


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