WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Fire from Above

Posted September 1, 2009 10:16 a.m. EDT

Los Angeles County fire seen from Aqua satellite on 31 Aug 09.

You've no doubt seen reports on our news and national broadcasts showing the fires raging just north and northeast of Los Angeles. Most of those images are shot from ground level or from aircraft near the scene. A much broader perspective can be seen from space, where NASA's Aqua satellite provided the platform for the image here, which shows the fire at about 2:05 pm PDT on Monday Aug 31st.

A southwesterly wind is carrying the smoke plume northeast and away from the city of Los Angeles and its surrounding communities, clearly visible as the large gray-colored built up region. The hot areas of fire are indicated by the red lines (these are not visible flames, but are superimposed color-codes based on heat detected by the satellite).

The Aqua satellite and its near twin called Terra follow polar orbits at almost 440 miles above the ground, and are able to image most parts of the earth twice a day. You can see some other L.A. fire images from these spacecraft, and other interesting shots from around the globe, at the Earth Observatory "natural hazards" link I included.