Wildfire smoke blanketing California frightening to watch, even from space
08 Aug 2018, 00:48 ( 2 Months ago)
Dozens of wildfires are currently burning across California. The smoke blanketing the Golden State is frightening to watch, even from space.
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have taken dramatic new photos of the wildfires raging across California from 400 kilometers above Earth.
"Plumes of billowing smoke from the #CaliforniaWildfires stretch eastwards [toward] the Rocky Mountains," astronaut Ricky Arnold, a crewmember on the ISS' current Expedition 56, posted some fire photos via Twitter on Aug. 6.
More than 14,000 firefighters are battling a dozen major wildfires across California.
The biggest wildfire in western U.S. California State, dubbed the Mendocino Complex fire, became the largest wildfire in state records Monday.
As of Monday evening, the fire had charred 283,800 acres (1,148 square km) in northern California, with only 30 percent contained. It had destroyed 75 residences and was threatening more than 11,300 structures.
The Carr Fire, which is raging in Shasta County, has claimed seven lives to date.
"California burning. These fires are frightening to watch, even from space," European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted. The geophysicist and volcanologist has posted images of several big fires and their even larger smoke plumes.
Astronauts aren't the only eyes tracking the wild fires from orbit. Wildfires are also captured by satellites.
Images of the fires from space taken by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s Earth-observing Aqua satellite show that smoke blanketing much of the Golden State and spreading as far east as Salt Lake City.
The Aqua satellite launched in May 2002, tasked primarily with studying Earth's water cycle. But the spacecraft can make a variety of other observations as well - helping researchers and first responders keep tabs on wildfires, volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters, for example.
Aqua's sibling satellite, Terra, has also been monitoring the California wildfires lately.
A variety of satellites are doing precision monitoring work. Many satellite photos show that the fires are making air quality unbreathable.
"Smoke is impacting much of California and surrounding areas," the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s National Weather Service posted many high resolution images captured by satellites.