NASA sky-eye watches Iraqi smoke plumes

NASA sky-eye watches Iraqi smoke plumes

As media computer simulations zoom across battlefields in Iraq, NASA's Earth Observatory Natural Hazards Web site, at earthobservatory.nasa.gov, is showing real images of oil well fires and dust storms in southern Iraq.

The Natural Hazards site is 'primarily science, but the Defense Department does receive direct feeds of satellite data sets from NASA,' said David Herring, the site's chief editor.

DOD approached NASA, Herring said, well in advance of the war 'about incorporating remote sensing data to complement their own suite of satellites. We're building in linkages to get the data sets they're interested in.'

Smoke plumes from the oil well fires can be seen by clicking on Natural Hazards and then on the flame icon in the Mideast area of the world map.

The images, captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer of NASA's Terra Earth Observing System satellite, also show dust storms over the Arabian Gulf and what NASA calls 'thermal anomalies' that are marked with red dots. As of yesterday, darker smoke plumes from the hot spots are blowing northwestward, partly obscured by clouds.

'We focus on dust storms, fires and other hazards for their effect on the environment,' Herring said. 'We can't show the fighting.'

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