Wildfires in Australia: Devastating views from space


AUSTRALIA (WKRN)– Australia is currently in the throes of an unprecedented fire season, and there is no end in sight.

Record-breaking heat and drought have contributed to the blazes which have been burning since late July. The devastation from the ongoing bush fires is visible from space.

Photo: Anthony Hearsey, visualization of the Australian fires

The image above is a 3-D visualization of the fires created from NASA’s FIRMS (Satellite data regarding fires) data between 12/05/19 – 01/05/20. This is a compilation of the areas affected by bush fires during that time period.

As of January 5th, 16 million acres, or 24,000 square miles, have burned. These fires have also destroyed more than 2,500 buildings and killed at least 25 people. Current estimates indicate nearly half a billion animals have been killed in the bush fires.

An incredible amount of smoke has been injected into the atmosphere. This video from NASA shows the eastward movement of smoke through the atmosphere observed by CALIPSO and MODIS over the past few days.

The smoke even drifted more than 1,000 miles across the Tasman Sea, causing skies over New Zealand to darken and turn orange.

Photo: NASA, taken from the ISS

Crew members of the International Space Station had a bird’s eye view as they orbited 269 miles above the Tasman Sea. The wildfires are pictured surrounding Sydney, Australia.

NASA Earth Observatory released the two images of southeastern Australia above, which taken six months apart. This area is where some of the most severe fires are burning. Lush green land visible in July is now covered by thick smoke.

Wildfires can burn hot enough to create upward motion in the atmosphere or an updraft. Pyrocumulus clouds are the result, and as the images above show, they can be seen from space.

These pyrocumulus clouds were also seen and photographed by airline passengers across Australia.

Photo: Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in Gippsland, Australia

With months to go in Australia’s fire season, the impacts on property, wildlife, and the landscape itself will be historic.

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