Fires in California

Fires in the USA

23 October 2007

Fires in Southern California

Driven by Santa Ana winds, several large wildfires flaredacross Southern California over the weekend of 20 October 2007. This pair ofimages of the area around Los Angeles on 21 October shows just how rapidly thefires grew. The top image, taken by the Moderate Resolution ImagingSpectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite at 11:35 a.m. local time, shows several active fires (outlined in red)emitting small plumes of smoke. By 2:50 p.m., when the Aqua satellite passed overhead, smoke was pouring from several large blazes northwestof Los Angeles. Although Aqua MODIS only caught the edge of the scene duringthis satellite overpass, the plumes of smoke and dust that can be seen blowingoff the coast inthe large image indicate the intensity of the winds and the presence ofadditional fires farther south.

21 October 2007

Santa Ana winds are a California firefighter’s nightmare. These blustery, dry,and often hot winds blow out of the desert and race through canyons and passesin the mountains on their way toward the coast. The air is hot not because it isbringing heat from the desert, but because it is flowing downslope from higherelevations. As fall progresses, cold air begins to sink into the Great Basindeserts to the east of California. As the air piles up at the surface, highpressure builds, and the air begins to flow downslope toward the coast. Whenwinds blow downslope, the air gets compressed, which causes it to warm and dryout. In fact, the air can warm at a rate of 10 degrees Celsius per kilometer ofdescent (29 degrees Fahrenheit per mile). Canyons and passes funnel the winds,which increases their speed. Not only do the winds spread the fire, but theyalso dry out vegetation, making it even more flammable.

The large image provided above has a spatial resolution (level of detail) of250 meters per pixel.

(source: EarthObservatory)

Latest GOES image

This GOES-11 satellite image shows very dense smoke plumes from numerousfires in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riversideand San Diego counties are moving westward into the Pacific Ocean. The extremefires are being fanned by strong Santa Ana winds.

(source: EarthObservatory)

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