Large fires can be blamed for some polluted air. In addition to ash and smoke, fires release carbon monoxide into the atmosphere as they burn. This false-color image shows the atmospheric column of carbon monoxide, with yellow and red indicating high levels of pollution. (The gray areas show where no data were taken, likely due to cloud cover.) The data were taken by the Measurements Of Pollution In The Troposphere (MOPITT) instrument aboard NASA's Terra satellite for the period October 26-31, 2003.
Remarks by NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe at the 2003 Earth Observation Summit in Washington, DC. The purpose of the summit was to promote the development of a comprehensive, coordinated, and sustained Earth observation system or systems among governments and the international community to understand and address global environmental and economic challenges, and also to begin a process to develop a conceptual framework and implementation plan for building this integrated Earth observation system. When the space age dawned it was clear that the ability to propel robotic spacecraft and humans beyond the gravity of our home planet would open up untold avenues of exploration and discovery throughout the Solar System and beyond. What was not understood at the time was how comprehensive observations of the Earth system from space would lead to a significant new field of scientific inquiry.