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Brookhaven Lab is leading research into the far-reaching effects of the wildfires raging in the Northwestern United States. Beyond the tremendous effects on the ground, these large fires impact the Earth’s climate both directly and indirectly, from blocking sunlight to influencing cloud formation.

To measure the properties of all the airborne particulates, small aircraft carrying an array of cutting-edge instruments fly through these massive plumes. These shots, taken from the plane window last week by Brookhaven’s Arthur Sedlacek, show the smoke rising over a wildfire in Washington State.

The last photo reveals what Sedlacek described as the “eerie orange hue” seen inside the smoke clouds. Some of the most crucial data is gathered in that strange skyscape.

This kind of extreme fieldwork is sometimes necessary for scientists to understand the chemical changes in the atmosphere that result from large-scale fires. The campaign is called the Biomass Burn Observation Project, or BBOP — yes, it’s pronounced like the jazz music style —and despite it’s light-hearted name, this collaboration with Pacific Northwest National Lab helps scientists assess very serious and largely unexplored consequences of forest fires.

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