Scorched Earth

  • Released Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:52PM
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Australia's blisteringly dry climate makes it prone to fire every summer. But an extreme, record-breaking heat wave that began in late 2012 has sparked hundreds of wildfires this season. As firefighting crews battled fires across Australia, NASA satellites captured a wide-angle view of the activity. Imaging instruments snapped shots of smoke plumes drifting off to sea, and thermal sensors detected the location of individual fires and the severity of burn scars. A longer-term look at fire activity in Australia reveals a pattern of controlled fires in fall and winter—often set by fire managers to reduce "fuel"—and bursts of less predictable, more intense wildfires during spring and summer. The visualization shows 10 years of fires and vegetation changes across Australia, observed by the MODIS instruments on NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites.

Wildfires have left their mark in Australia during this Southern Hemisphere summer.

Wildfires have left their mark in Australia during this Southern Hemisphere summer.

Heavy smoke rises from fires burning on the densely vegetated Cape York Peninsula in Nov. 2012. Red outlines mark intensely hot surfaces.

Heavy smoke rises from fires burning on the densely vegetated Cape York Peninsula in Nov. 2012. Red outlines mark intensely hot surfaces.

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Credits

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Cover photo courtesy Commander Chris Hadfield, International Space Station
Satellite images courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory