This panoramic view of east-central Texas on September 6, 2011, highlights numerous smoke plumes caused by wildfires burning across the state. The image was taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), who used a short focal-length lens (12 mm) to capture a wide field of view. Smoke plumes are clearly visible to the east of Austin; to the north of Houston; to the northwest of Lake Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend Reservoir; and to the west of Shreveport, Louisiana. Diffuse smoke is moving offshore into the Gulf of Mexico at image bottom. Part of an ISS photovoltaic radiator panel is visible at image top center.
Record-setting drought conditions have affected much of Texas since early 2011, drying out both forest and grassland and providing ample fuel for wildfires. Relatively high winds and low humidity levels have also contributed to the rapid spread and expansion of fires. According to a report dated September 7, 2011, the Texas Forest Service had responded to 172 fires affecting an area of 546.53 square kilometers (135,051 acres) over the preceding seven days. Fires near Bastrop (to the east of Austin) had destroyed 785 homes as of September 7, 2011.
Astronaut photograph ISS028-E-37978 was acquired on September 6, 2011, with a Nikon 2Xs digital camera using an effective 12 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 28 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast. Lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by William L. Stefanov, Jacobs/ESCG at NASA-JSC.
Instrument: ISS – Digital Camera
acquired September 3, 2011
The 101 Ranch Fire began on August 30, 2011, south of Possum Kingdom Lake in Palo Pinto County, Texas. By September 6, the fire had scorched 6,555 acres (2,653 hectares), according to the Incident Information System.
The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASAs Terra satellite captured this false-color image of the Ranch 101 burn scar on September 3, 2011. The burn scar is gray, vegetation is red, and bare or sparsely vegetated ground is tan. Water is navy blue.
Just south of the easternmost curve of Possum Kingdom Lake is a network of residential streets, some of which lie within the burn scar. The Texas Forest Service reported that 39 homes and nine RVs had been destroyed. Although dozens of homes had been lost, firefighters saved nearly 200 others.
As of September 6, the 101 Ranch Fire was 85 percent contained. News sources said that winds had died down, and some firefighters had been released to battle other blazes in the state. The same day, the Texas Forest Service reported that it had responded to 22 new fires in the past 24 hours, and 181 fires over the past week. The surge of wildfire in the region burned a total of 118,413 acres (47,920 hectares), and more than 700 homes had likely been lost in just 48 hours.
The fires came in the midst of high temperatures and low humidity. Large parts of Texas have suffered from severe drought in the summer of 2011.
References Hanna, B. (2011, September 6). Wildfire focus shifts to Central Texas. Star-Telegram. Accessed September 6, 2011. Incident Information System. (2011, September 6). 101 Ranch. Accessed September 6, 2011. Magditch, D. (2011, September 4). Pilots fight 101 Ranch wildfire from above. KDAF TV. Accessed September 6, 2011. Texas Forest Service. (2011, September 6). Texas Wildfire Situation. Texas A&M University. Accessed September 6, 2011.
NASA Earth Observatory image created by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using data provided courtesy of NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team. Caption by Michon Scott.