US west coast forests are more and more in the grip of Wildfires.

Keywords : Aerosols, LiDARs, MicroLiDARs, Monitoring, Earth observation, Remote sensing, Wildfire, Smoke, Ash, Fires, Climate Change, Global Warming, Atmospheric Monitoring, Mobile Solutions, Air Quality

June 28th 2022

According to a recent UN report, forest fires will continue to increase by the end of the century. It is especially the case on the west coast of the United States, which is one of the countries most affected by this phenomenon. Whether they are natural or human-caused, these fires are devastating on a large scale.

The global warming makes the conditions more favorable to the start of fires and their proliferation. The climate change is worsening the impacts by prolonging the fire seasons.

California is the most wildfire-prone state in the United States. In 2021, over 9000 wildfires burned in the Southwestern state ravishing nearly 2.23 million acres.

Fires are a danger to life on the planet: smoke inhalation, soil degradation and water pollution, destruction of the habitats of many species… Not to mention the aggravation of global warming due to the destruction of forests, crucial to absorb the carbon that we emit.

Therefore, on summer 2019, NASA initiated FIREX-AQ mission so as to investigate on fire and smoke from wildfire using several measurement instruments across the world, and especially in the US.

NASA uses satellites combined with airborne and ground-based instruments to decipher the impact of wildfires.

The emissions of ash clouds resulting from the fire can be transported thousands of miles and can have an impact on air quality for example as they are responsible for a large fraction of the US PM2.5 emissions. Due to its microscopic size, PM2.5 is easily inhaled and has the potential to travel deep into our respiratory tracts, it can also remain airborne for long periods.

To date, wildfire outputs are still poorly represented in emission inventories.

The overarching objectives of FIREX-AQ are to:

  • Provide measurements of trace gas and aerosol emissions for wildfires and prescribed fires in great detail
  • Relate them to fuel and fire conditions at the point of emission
  • Characterize the conditions relating to plume rise
  • Follow plumes downwind to understand chemical transformation and air quality impacts
  • Assess the efficacy of satellite detections for estimating the emissions from sampled fires

For this purpose, CIMEL provided CE376 micro-LiDARs as well as its network of CE318-T photometers through AERONET. These solutions allowed detailed measurements of aerosols emitted from wildfires and agricultural fires to address science topics and evaluate impacts on local and regional air quality, and how satellite data can be used to estimate emissions more accurately.

Figure 1: CE376 micro-LiDAR and CE318-T photometers embarked on a car for FIREX-AQ mobile measurements campaign in Western US (2019).

Indeed, the synergy of the photometer with the mobile CE376 LiDAR allows profiling the extinction at 2 wavelengths (532, 808 nm) and of the Angstrom Exponent (AE). AE vertical profile and the depolarization capabilities of the CE376 allow identifying the aerosol type (fine/coarse). Below are some results from the FIREX-AQ 2019 mission:

Figure 2: Mapping of smoke vertical and spatial dispersion thanks to mobile LIDAR and photometer measurements by Dr. Ioana POPOVICI.   

Figure 3:  Mapping and modelization from FIREX-AQ campaign in Western US (2019) by LiDAR CE376.


FIREX-AQ experience proved that we are able to embark compact remote sensing instruments and install them quickly on site to access harsh environments and get close to fire sources, which has not been done before. Actually, it is the first time a LIDAR reaches that close to fire sources in a mountainous region.



Giles, D. M. and Holben, B. and Eck, T. F. and Slutsker, I. and LaRosa, A. D. and Sorokin, M. G. and Smirnov, A. and Sinyuk, A. and Schafer, J. and Kraft, J. and Scully, A. and Goloub, P. and Podvin, T. and Blarel, L. and Proniewski, L. and Popovici, I. and Dubois, G. and Lapionak, A., (2020), Ground-based Remote Sensing of the Williams Flats Fire Using Mobile AERONET DRAGON Measurements and Retrievals during FIREX-AQ, 2020, AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts.


La Palma eruption (Canary Islands) – volcanic plumes tracking by our LiDARs

Keywords : LiDARs, Aerosols, Atmosphere, La Palma, Cumbre Vieja volcano, CE376.

6th October 2021

The Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma in the Canary Islands erupted on 19th September for the first time since 1971 resulting in large lava flows and evacuations.

Due to the volcanic eruption, nearly 10 000 tons of sulfur dioxide are released in the atmosphere every day. The risks generated are acid rain and deterioration of air quality which can lead to respiratory problems.

In a few words, this phenomenon is due to the fact that the lava of the volcano which reaches 1000°C meets the sea water which is at around 20°C. Therefore, the sodium chloride contained in the sea breaks down the water into oxygen and hydrogen. However, when hydrogen meets chlorine, they turn into hydrochloric acid which is an extremely dangerous gas.

There are many consequences such as the impact on the air quality which directly concerns the surrounding populations who breathe a toxic smoke harmful for their health.

Air traffic is also strongly impacted as all the flights departing from the island have been cancelled. These disturbances are also due to the lack of instruments measuring aerosols (such as LiDARs) to accurately identify the location of the volcanic ash as well as its characteristics and concentration.

Our CE376 LiDARs in AEMET (Izaña) is tracking plumes of the volcanic ash from the volcanic eruption on La Palma and here are some results to illustrate it.

Figure 1: Quicklook revealing the volcano plumes as captured on 24 September by AEMET in Izaña.

The volcano is propelling air into the atmosphere which meets a thermal inversion – a reversal of the normal behavior of temperature in the troposphere where a layer of hot air sits above a layer of cooler air.

Figure 2: Picture by Virgilio Carreño (Izaña Atmospheric research center, AEMET) showing the interaction of the gas and ash plume of the eruptive column leaving the volcano with the altitude thermal inversion layer of the atmosphere through which the Sahara desert dust transcends.

ESA – New remote sensing tech on satellite for atmospheric measurements

VEGA Rocket

ESA – New remote sensing tech on satellite for atmospheric measurements


On September 3rd 2020, ESA has launched 42 small satellites aboard a Vega rocket from Kourou in French Guiana for the Copernicus Project.

This new type of satellites capable of measuring CO2 emissions to the nearest kilometer and pinpointing their origin.

One of these nanosatellites, PICASSO, carries remote sensing technology developed which will be used to undertake measurements in the upper layers of Earth’s atmosphere.

PICASSO stands for Pico-Satellite for Atmospheric and Space Science Observations and it’s the first CubeSat nanosatellite mission of the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy.

Weighing only 3.5kg, it carries two measuring instruments for atmospheric research: A Visible Spectral Imager for Occultation and Nightglow (VISION) and a system to conduct plasma measurements in the ionosphere, the Sweeping Langmuir Probe (SLP).

This project of analysis and collection of satellite data will be carried out over 5 years. The aim is to obtain as much precise information as possible on the quantification of gases in the air.

We will be able to know exactly the real CO2 emission by country, cities and the origin of gases (if it’s anthropogenic or natural).

Thanks to this initiative, more and more surveillance systems will be sent into space over the next few years, which will help develop the market for remote sensing solutions.

Cimel will be part of this development by bringing additional data thanks to its photometers and LiDARs to help calibrate and validate data from satellites.

Credits: ESA-M. Pedoussaut


Research and atmosphere monitoring never stop, even during the COVID-19 pandemic

During the Covid-19 lockdown, the automatic CIMEL micro-pulse LiDARs continued profiling the atmosphere! The CIMEL micro-pulse LiDARs do not require supervised operation or human attendance, allowing recording continuous measurements during emergency situations like the Covid-19 lockdown.

An example of continuous measurements performed by the CE376-GPN micro-pulse LiDAR (532 nm polarized and 808 nm unpolarized) along with the CE318-T Sun/Sky/Lunar photometer at Laboratoire d’Optique Atmosphérique (LOA) in Lille, France are presented below (Fig.1).

Figure 1: Measurements by the CE376-GPN micro-pulse LiDAR along with the CE318-T photometer at LOA in Lille

Since the lockdown in France on 16 March 2020, the CIMEL micro-pulse LiDAR continues measurements, providing long time series of LiDAR data which will allow to study the impact of the lockdown on air quality.

On the examples above, two situations are presented during this period: low fine particle loading from urban background pollution and a desert dust intrusion event on 27 March 2020 (Fig.1, left) and low aerosol loading (fine particles from urban background pollution) on 5 April 2020 (Fig.1, right).

The daily mean AOD at 500 nm recorded by the CE318-T sun photometer was 0.35 for the dust event on 27 March 2020 and 0.1 for the “clean” conditions on 5 April 2020.

The desert dust intrusion event captured in CIMEL LiDAR data at Lille on 27 March 2020 is consistent with the Saharan dust intrusion forecasted by the NMMB/BSC-Dust model (See Fig.2 below), showing shallow dust layers in the 3 – 10 km altitude range (the dotted line on the dust forecast figure represents the location of Lille, France).

Figure 2: NMMB/BSC-Dust model

More recently, the CE376-GPNP micro-pulse LIDAR (Fig. 3) is operating at CIMEL in Paris, France, to provide more continuous data for the aerosols and clouds research community.

Figure 3: Measurements by the CE376-GPN micro-pulse LiDAR along with the CE318-T photometer at CIMEL in Paris

Earth Observation Satellites & Ground Monitoring  Solutions – an essential synergy for Air Quality and Climate Change

Earth Observation Satellites & Ground Monitoring  Solutions – an essential synergy for Air Quality and Climate Change

April 30, 2020

Atmospheric monitoring and climate analysis are strategic missions in order to improve the understanding of air quality dynamics and climate change evolutions. This in turn is a pre-requisite for providing reliable information reports with real data measurements and to help decision makers and end-users to understand the impacts and causes of air pollution with atmospheric impacts and to act upon it.

Satellite data is key for atmospheric and climate monitoring by providing a continuous and global view of the Earth parameters. These data are essential inputs for forecast models by improving their accuracy.

By combining satellite observations with models of the atmosphere and measurements from ground-based instruments, like Cimel Remote Sensing Solutions, it is possible to measure accurately and forecast aerosols (particles suspended in the air), as well as quantify gases level (ozonenitrogen dioxidesulphur dioxidecarbon monoxide…) and several other kind of environmental parameters (planetary boundary layer, water leaving reflectance for Ocean color, solar radiation, water vapor, atmospheric concentration profiles PM2.5/PM10…).

Cimel solutions keep working continuously and automatically, to help the calibration of satellite instruments and validate their data. Furthermore, Cimel is always active to support the various research activities from the worldwide scientific community.

In this video, different aerosols are highlighted by color, including dust (orange), sea salt (blue), nitrates (pink) and carbonaceous (red), with brighter regions corresponding to higher aerosol amounts.

See more on:

Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

FIREX – AQ Mission

FIREX – AQ Mission

Approximately half of fire emissions in the US are from Northwestern wildfires and half are from prescribed fires that burn mostly in the Southeast US. Wildfires burn slightly more fuel and therefore have overall larger emissions, but prescribed fires dominate the area burned and the number of fires. FIREX-AQ will investigate both wild and prescribed fires. Wildfires generally result in exposures with larger pollution concentrations over larger areas, and cause both local and regional air quality impacts. Their emissions are often transported thousands of miles and can impact large regions of the US at a time. Prescribed fires are usually smaller and less intense than most wildfires but occur more frequently and throughout the whole year. They are usually ignited during periods that minimize population expose and air quality impacts, but can cause regional backgrounds to increase, are generally in closer proximity to populations, and are responsible for a large fraction of the US PM2.5 emissions.

This summer, NOAA and NASA are teaming up on a massive research campaign called FIREX-AQ that will use satellites, aircraft, drones, mobile and ground stations to study smoke from wildfires and agricultural crop fires across the U.S. 

Objective: To improve understanding of wildfire and agricultural fire impacts on air quality, weather, and climate.

Cimel provides a CE376 micro-LiDAR as well as its network of CE318-T photometers through AERONET. These solutions will provide detailed measurements of aerosols emitted from wildfires and agricultural fires to address science topics and evaluate impacts on local and regional air quality, and how satellite data can be used to estimate emissions more accurately.

The Primary Mission Partners are:

Photo: P. Cullis, NOAA / CIRES

COBIACC campaign

COBIACC campaign

Is the rural atmosphere better than elsewhere?

For the entire month of July in Caillouël-Crépigny (France), scientists from the University of Lille and ATMO Hauts-de-France will analyze particles in the air and their impact on health in rural areas.

Since 28 June, more than twenty air pollution measuring devices deployed over 100 m² in the commune of Caillouël-Crépigny (02) may answer this question.

Objectives: To understand the formation and the composition of particles and their precursors in the air in a rural environment during the summer period.

The sensors collect dust from the countryside and nearby dust from forests, roads, buildings and industries in the distance.

The facility consists of four containers installed on 100 m² in the village square of Caillouël-Crépigny. They accommodate twenty-two observation instruments including our Cimel Sun Sky Lunar CE318-T photometer as well as our CE376 micro-LiDAR. These instruments, unique in France, measure the impact of climate change on air quality, biodiversity and health. Thirty researchers take turns night and day to study the chemical modifications of particles during periods of high heat.

This campaign was named COBIACC for Campagne d’OBservation Intensive des Aérosols et précurseurs à Caillouël-Crépigny. It is the result of a partnership between Labex CaPPA, a laboratory of excellence in Lille, CPER Climibio, an environmental project involving 16 laboratories in the Hauts-de-France and Atmo Hauts-de-France, the regional air quality observatory.

Laboratories involved: