Smoke Over Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela

May 8, 2020

Smoke Over Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela


NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite captured a series of images showing a black smoky plume spreading on April 25, 2020. Animation credit: NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory

As noted in a recent NASA Earth Observatory Image of the Day (“A Fiery Month in Zulia”) satellites have detected lots of fire activity in western Venezuela in recent weeks. Just as that story was released, a surprisingly large, dark smoke plume appeared in VIIRS and MODIS imagery. It bore little resemblance to the smaller, gray plumes that we had been watching. Forest and crops fires had caused the earlier plumes; the new black smoke was caused by a brush fire that had spread into a crude oil storage area, according to news reports.

The animation above shows the progression of the plume on the morning of April 25, 2020. The images were collected at 10 minute intervals by the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) on NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite. Sensors on other satellites caught glimpses of the short-lived plume as well, including the Multispectral Instrument (MSI) on the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellite and the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite.