The intense heat and drought that sparked the catastrophic wildfires in the western United States received an unfortunate boost from high winds over the Labor Day weekend. Many satellites and other space instruments have been keeping an eye on the developments of these fires.
There have been 25 major fires in California since Labor Day (Sept. 7), according to a recent one statement from NASA which detailed how an instrument aboard the International Space Station observed fiery events from above. This Earth observation technology, called ECOSTRESS (short for ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station), imaged active fires across the state of California on Sunday (September 6).
ECOSTRESS was designed by NASA̵
The ongoing heat wave may be responsible for surface temperatures highlighted in orange, which NASA officials say are “abnormally warm” temperatures since mid-night.
The El Dorado fire near Yucaipa and the valley fire in the Japatul Valley are active fires that ECOSTRESS has captured in its images.
Another Earth observation technology in space spotted California fires over the weekend. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite GOES-17 observed the growth of the massive Creek Fire in Fresno County.
SATELLITE HIGHLIGHTS: This @NOAA # GOES17🛰️ loop from last Saturday shows how fast Fresno County’s #CreekFire has grown after being turned on Friday night. As of this afternoon, @CAL_FIRE says #wildfire has grown to 144,000 acres and is contained at 0%. #CaliforniaFires #CAwx pic.twitter.com/T8qLQkrwu98 September 2020
NOAA Satellites’ Public Affairs Division posted a tweet on Monday (Sept. 7) featuring a loop of footage from the Creek Fire.
This @NOAA # GOES17Satellite loop from last Saturday shows how quickly Fresno County’s #CreekFire has grown after being turned on Friday night. As of this afternoon, @CAL_FIRE says #wildfire has grown to 144,000 acres and is contained at 0%, ” the tweet said.
ECOSTRESS and GOES-17 were accompanied on their wildfire observations by the NOAA / NASA Suomi NPP satellite.
Suomi collected data on aerosols, or vaporized particles, carried into the Earth’s atmosphere due to plumes of fire.
The aerosol display and true color image display show that the effects of the West Coast fires are far-reaching. Regions within the deep red range of the aerosol image have aerosol levels that could “ be potentially dangerous to the health of those in that area, ” according to a Sept. 8 NASA. Press release describing the images of Suomi.
High concentrations of aerosols can not only affect climate and reduce visibility, but can also impact breathing, reproduction, cardiovascular system and central nervous system, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. . Because aerosols are able to remain suspended in the atmosphere and be carried in prevailing high-altitude wind currents, they can travel great distances away from their source, as evidenced in these images, and their effects can persist. ” wrote NASA officials in the statement.
NASA’s Earth Observatory also shared pictures of the fires over the Labor Day weekend, posting a blog post featuring images of smoky plumes covering California. The instruments that captured these views fly aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite and NOAA-20 satellite.
These images also highlight the other Western states that are experiencing fire outbreaks. Officials from NASA’s Earth Observatory detailed how the onset of strong winds over the weekend fueled the “wave of intensity” of the fires.
“With record heat and extreme drought conditions already gripping much of the region, the addition of strong winds has further energized the fires, prompting many to spread rapidly and blow vast columns of smoke into the air,” according to the NASA Earth Observatory blog post.
There are several resources available to people who wish to stay up to date on fires and their effects. California state officials are offering daily updates about fires. The San Francisco Chronicle has created an air quality map resource, available online. And from NASA World vision the application is another tool that offers spatial views of the Earth.
Follow Doris Elin Urrutia on Twitter @salazar_elin. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.