Space View of the 1991 Gulf War Kuwaiti Oil Fires

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 8:25 AM
Omar Torres1, Pawan K Bhartia1 and David Larko2, (1)NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (2)Science Systems and Applications, Inc., Lanham, MD, United States
During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, over 700 oil wells in Kuwait were set ablaze by the withdrawing Iraqi army with the apparent intent of hindering satellite reconnaissance and intelligence gathering activities by the coalition of forces repelling Iraq from occupied Kuwait. The oil fires that burned for an estimated 10 months, created a huge smoke plume whose spatial extent went at times beyond the Persian Gulf region, mobilized across the Saharan Desert reaching as far west as the North Atlantic Ocean. The Nimbus-7 TOMS Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer, in operation from October 1978 to May 1993, measured the near UV radiances that in the mid-1990’s became the input in the calculation of the well know Absorbing Aerosol Index that represented a major breakthrough in satellite-based aerosol remote sensing. Thus, unknowingly to the world, the N7-TOMS sensor was collecting in 1991 an unprecedented daily record of what can be considered the worst environmental catastrophe affecting the atmosphere since the beginning of the era of space-based remote sensing in the 1970’s. An overview of the temporal and spatial extent of the synoptic scale 1991 Gulf War smoke plume as seen by the Nimbus-7 TOMS Absorbing Aerosol Index will be presented.