Fort McMurray Fires Continue in Alberta
On May 12, 2016, a total of 17 wildfires were still burning in the vicinity of Fort McMurray, Canada. Provincial authorities still considered one of those fires to be “out of control.” As of May 12, fires in that part of Alberta had burned up at least 2,410 square kilometers (930 square miles) of land.
The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite acquired this image of the burn scar on May 12. The false-color image combines shortwave infrared, near infrared, and green light (OLI bands 7-5-3). Near- and short-wave infrared help penetrate clouds and smoke (white) to reveal the hot spots associated with active fires (red). With this combination, burned areas appear brown.
References for the image and caption above: Alberta Government (2016, May 12) Wildfire Update 13: May 12 at 1:30 p.m. Accessed May 16, 2016.
NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Caption by Kathryn Hansen.
Instrument(s): Landsat 8 – OLI
In addition, the Suomi NPP satellite took this image of the Fort McMurray fires and nearby area with the VIIRS instrument in the early morning hours of May 15, 2016. The image shows both the fire and the smoke in contrast.
On May 15, 2016, the Suomi NPP satellite took a daytime image of the Fort McMurray fire in Alberta, Canada and provided this image.
On May 16, 2016, the Alberta, Canada government site reported that fire conditions remain extreme in the province with the Fort McMurray wildfire still out of control. The fire is estimated to cover 284,214 hectares (1,097 square miles) and four new fires started over the past 24 hours. A total of 15 wildfires are burning, with three out of control. There are 1,919 firefighters, 161 helicopters, 377 pieces of heavy equipment and 29 air tankers currently battling the fires. Fort McMurray, Anzac, Gregoire Lake Estates and Fort McMurray First Nation remain under a mandatory evacuation order.
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC. Caption by Lynn Jenner with information from the Alberta Canada government site.
Central Africa Is Blanketed by Fires
Each red dot represents an area of the earth that is hotter than the area surrounding it and is indicative of fire. Central Africa in this satellite image is teeming with red dots. That signals that agricultural season in this area is in full swing. The location, widespread nature, and number of fires suggest that these were deliberately set to manage land. Farmers often use fire as a means of returning nutrients to the soil and to clear the ground of unwanted plants. While fire helps enhance crops and grasses for pasture, the fires also produce smoke that degrades air quality.
NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite collected this natural-color image using the VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) instrument on May 18, 2016. NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC. Caption by Lynn Jenner
NASA Satellites Image Fort McMurray Fires Day and Night
The grayish brown swirl that is combining with the clouds billowing over Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada is smoke that has risen from the Fort McMurray fire complex. This image taken by the Terra satellite’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on May 17, 2016. Actively burning areas, detected by MODIS’s thermal bands, are outlined in red.
The Fort McMurray wildfire has destroyed one of the oilsands camps north of the city and is roaring eastward toward others in its path. This image from the Suomi NPP satellite taken on May 17, 2016 shows the fires heading in that direction. The leading eastern edge of the Alberta fires was expected to reach the Saskatchewan border by the end of Tuesday.
Top image courtesy NASA/Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team. Bottom image courtesy of UWM/SSEC/CIMSS, William Straka III.
Caption: NASA/Goddard, Lynn Jenner with information from the Alberta Government site.
Fort McMurray Fire Sends Up Huge Columns of Smoke
Huge columns of smoke rise up from the myriad of fires in the Fort McMurray complex in Alberta, Canada. NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite collected this natural-color image using the VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) instrument on May 16, 2016. The actively burning areas are outlined in red. The fire north of Fort McMurray had retreated and some citizens had returned, but in the last few days this area has been threatened again. On May 15, warnings were issued that the wildfire was moving at 30-40 meters (98-131 feet) per minute to the north again.
The smoke released by any type of fire (forest, brush, crop, structure, tires, waste or wood burning) is a mixture of particles and chemicals produced by incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials. All smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter (PM or soot). Smoke can contain many different chemicals, including aldehydes, acid gases, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), benzene, toluene, styrene, metals and dioxins. The type and amount of particles and chemicals in smoke varies depending on what is burning, how much oxygen is available, and the burn temperature. The air pollution levels in and around Alberta remain at dangerously high levels. Current readings show it to be at 38 where 10 is considered dangerously high.NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC. Caption by Lynn Jenner