NASA Reveals ‘California Wildfire’ Aftermath Satellite Imagery

Burn scars caused by California wildfires viewed from above the earth.

Burn scars caused by California Wildfires viewed from above the earth (enhanced image). Credits: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

California Wildfires: Aftermath from NASA Viewpoint

As California wildfires are raging, the damage inflicted upon the terrain is well documented and abundantly apparent. What may not seem so obvious is the sheer magnitude of damage left behind on the scorched earth after the flames are contained. To that end, NASA has recently posted satellite imagery of scars left behind by the intense blazes. We’ve long known that enormous fires are visible from space, but these images reveal that the aftermath upon the landscape is notably distinguishable from our planet’s outer orbit.

Origin of NASA Images

The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured false-color view of the charred landscape on September 20, 2015. The image is a composite based on data OLI collected with its short-wave infrared and near-infrared bands. Newly burned land has a strong signal in short-wave infrared bands, visible as dark red-orange areas. Unburned forests appear gray. Buildings are white. The second image below shows a broader view. According to the California Department of Forestry, the fire had burned 76,067 acres (30,783 hectares) as of September 22, 2015, and it was 75 percent contained.

Burn scars caused by California wildfires viewed from above the earth.

Burn scars caused by California wildfires viewed from above the earth. Credits: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

NASA Analysis

Devastation of the sort that the fast-moving Valley Fire unleashed rarely has a single cause. Long before the blaze started burning through Boggs Mountain State Forest, decades of aggressive firefighting—and too few prescribed fires—left the woodlands overloaded with brush and other fuel. Meanwhile, extreme drought over the past four years has sucked the forests dry of moisture, leaving the trees unusually combustible. An army of destructive bark beetles also has made the pine forests vulnerable.

When a weather system delivered abnormally hot temperatures and gusty winds to Napa, Sonoma, and Lake counties in northern California, the forests were primed to burn intensely. The first spark likely came from a shed fire in the town of Cobb on September 12, 2015. Once it had escaped the shed, the fire spread with such speed and intensity that firefighters could do little to slow it. Within 48 hours, the inferno had burned an area twice as large as Manhattan as it raced southeast along ridges in Boggs Mountain State Forest toward the communities of Harbin Springs, Anderson Springs, and Middletown.

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Take a look and tell us what you think of these powerful images. Join in the discussion! Comment, share on Facebook and find us on Twitter, hashtag #DMtalk.

Staff Writer

Leo Ashcraft

A retired broadcast engineer, talk show host, news reporter - I have done everything there is to do in the radio broadcast business. I worked a year in television. I left that as my true passion has always been radio - plus I got tired of hearing - you have a face for radio.. I hope you enjoy my articles! Be sure to share them excessively on facebook - like our page and bug your friends with invites!

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1 Response

  1. Billy Daly says:

    Devastating for humans and nature.

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