Stunning NASA satellite image shows ‘burn scar’ visible from space at Bighorn Fire site in Arizona
- NASA has unveiled a new satellite photo of the destruction of the Bighorn Fire
- The blaze broke out in Arizona in early June and spread over 48 square miles
- It left a ‘burning scar’ in the mountains outside of Tuscon that can be seen from space
NASA has released a stunning new image from space showing the devastating impact of the Bighorn Fire passing through Arizona in early June.
Created by NASA’s Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER), the image shows a 20-mile by 30-mile stretch of the Santa Catalina Mountains just north of Tuscon, where the wildfire started.
The image has been edited to emphasize what NASA calls the “ burn scar ” on land, shown in black and dark gray, while areas of unburned vegetation are colored red.
NASA shared an image from space of the Bighorn Fire, which began on June 5 outside of Tuscon, Arizona. The black and dark gray images show the ‘burn scar’ left by the fire, while the red areas are vegetation that has not been burned
The Bighorn Fire originally started on June 5 after a light strike ignited the area.
The fire spread quickly, covering more than 114,000 acres or 48 square miles in just a few days, forcing over 800 firefighters and rescuers to fight the fire.
The fire was especially difficult to control because of the abundant dry vegetation as fuel, while the mountainous landscape created air pressure differentials that accelerated the fire-laden winds.
“It’s a bit like a chimney, like the wind going up the canyons,” said Dee Hines, a spokesman for the team fighting the fire.
“It was a really challenging fire between the terrain and the wind,”
Local authorities say the Bighorn Fire was caused by a lightning strike, which ignited the dry vegetation and then quickly spread over more than 48 square miles
The bighorn fire spread through the Santa Catalina Mountains just outside Tuscon and between 130 and 150 houses had to be evacuated as the fire entered the city
As of July 1, the Bighorn Fire was only 54% trapped, while between 130 and 150 homes in the area had been evacuated.
The Bighorn Fire was just one of three major wildfires in Arizona in June, with the Mangum Fire erupting near Grand Canyon National Park and the Bush Fire engulfing more than 180 square miles outside of Phoenix.
On July 1, the Mangum Fire was contained 67%, while the Bush Fire was 98% contained, making the Bighorn Fire the greatest ongoing concern.
The fire spread so quickly through the combination of abundant dry vegetation to burn and the mountainous terrain, causing air pressure differentials that accelerated the fiery winds. “It’s a bit like a chimney, like the wind going up the canyons,” said a spokesman.
More than 800 rescuers and firefighters were involved in the Bighorn fire, and by July 1, it was only 54%
The ASTER satellite was originally launched in 1999 as a joint project with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to monitor large-scale changes in terrestrial landscapes.
It uses a high spectral resolution imaging system that can take pictures of both visible light spectrum and infrared wavelengths, according to a message on NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory news blog.
Images from the satellite have previously been used to help scientists study a range of topics, including cloud formation, glacier advances and retreats, crop health, air pollution and coral reef health, and many others.
HOW DOES WILDFIRES AFFECT ON LOCAL TEMPERATURES?
Smoke suspended in the air can block the sun enough to cause measurable temperature differences on the surface, even after the flames have gone out.
Scientists say that the interaction between smoke and sun rays can cool or warm the air; as the rays are scattered, the air becomes cooler, while the temperature rises as the rays are absorbed.
In the photo, the San Francisco skyline is obscured by smoke and mist from forest fires behind Alcatraz on November 14, 2018
A study published earlier this year found that the cooling effect can even extend to river and flow temperatures.
Brown carbon in particular appears to have a significant effect, as NASA says it is more likely than black carbon to achieve higher levels of the atmosphere.
But, the space agency explains, “as particulate matter in the atmosphere, both can interfere with solar radiation by absorbing and dispersing the sun’s rays.”
Brown carbon is an important product of forest fires because it is made when grass, wood and other biological materials burn.
‘Most of the brown carbon released into the air remains in the lower atmosphere, but we found that a fraction of it does end up in the upper atmosphere, where it has a disproportionately large effect on the planetary radiation balance – much stronger than if it was on the surface, “said Rodney Weber, a professor at the Georgia Tech School of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, in a study last year into the phenomenon.
The graph above shows the amount of sunlight reflected from the landscape after a forest fire in North America (NA), Eurasia (EU), Northeast Eurasia (NEEU), South Eurasia (SEU) and Northwest Eurasia (NWEU)
Fires can also cause the temperature to drop by transforming the landscape and increasing a property known as albedo – or the amount of light reflected from a surface.
Because the vegetation is destroyed by the fires, there is less foliage to absorb the sunlight and heat.
Studies of recent years have shown that the resulting cooling effect can last for years, especially during the winter months.