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EARTH OBSERVATION
NASA satellite sees sulfur dioxide diffuse across northern Iraq
by Brooks Hays
Mosul, Iraq (UPI) Oct 25, 2016


disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Sulfur dioxide is emanating from a fire at a mine in northern Iraq. As new satellite images show, the noxious gas is diffusing across the region's lower atmosphere.

The fire ignited last week at a sulfur extraction and processing facility near Mosul, Iraq. Since then, a plume of sulfur dioxide has grown in size. An image captured by NASA's Aqua satellite shows wind pushing the plume toward the southeast.

The plume is gray-white in color as a result of the abundance of reflective sulfate aerosols. Large releases of sulfate aerosols can have a local cooling effect, because they reflect sunlight. The phenomenon can happen on a larger scale in the wake of significant volcanic eruptions.

The image, captured by Aqua's MODIS instrument, features a second plume extending from the nearby Qayyarah oil field -- also on fire. Its smoke is black because the abundance of black carbon and other light-absorbing aerosols.

Data collected by NASA's Aura satellite and its Ozone Monitoring Instrument revealed the extent of the diffused sulfur dioxide. The gas has stretched across much of northern and central Iraq.

Aura's Ozone Monitoring Instrument can distinguish between different types of aerosols and particulates throughout the lowest layers of the atmosphere, known as the tropospheric ozone.


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