A previous blog post documented the explosive growth of the East Troublesome Fire during the day of Oct 21 through the late evening. The fire had spread east to near the Continental Divide, west of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), slowing by late that night.
During the morning of 22 Oct, NWS BOU forecasters monitoring the wildfire hot spot in GOES-East imagery noted an eastward movement of the far eastern portion of the fire, northeast of Grand Lake and west of Estes Park, possibly across the Continental Divide (Fig 1).
An image captured by BOU forecasters shows the Fire Radiative Power product in relation to the most recent burn scar shapefile and other local geographic features and towns (Fig 2). Accounting for the surface parallax (from GOES-East, surface features are displaced to the north and west at this location/elevation by several km), fire associated with the easternmost hot spot would actually be situated to the southeast, just east of the Divide and west of Bear Lake in RMNP.
Accounting for surface parallax, BOU believed that the hot spot may have advanced east across the Continental Divide during this period. Based on this development as diagnosed in GOES-East imagery, BOU forecasters alerted (via phone call) RMNP dispatch (and Laminar County) to the possibility that the fire had pushed east across the Divide into western RMNP. They were unaware of fire growth into the park at the time, and would go on to call out fire partners to investigate. Although it took a while to get confirmation, it would be confirmed that the fire had indeed crossed over the Continental Divide.
A cold front would soon push west into the I-25 corridor and eventually to Estes Park, dropping temperatures and raising humidity’s with a light east wind. The moist stable layer may have made it west up to the fire, putting a damper on fire behavior. GOES Natural Color Fire imagery from the early afternoon showed low stratus draped across the eastern Colorado plains, while the wildfire continued to burn hot west of the Divide in the presence of still dry and windy conditions (Fig 3). Also diagnosed in the imagery was a thick smoke plume with pyrocu spreading well east over the stratus deck. The smoke plume masked the hot spot in RMNP for the rest of the afternoon/evening.
During the evening of the 22nd, the glow associated with the fire in western RMNP could be diagnosed in (terrain corrected) VIIRS Day Night Band imagery (Fig 4).
This is a great example of a forecast office utilizing GOES imagery to provide potentially life saving IDSS to core partners.
Bill Line, NESDIS and CIRA (with input from NWS BOU)