Images of Day:
Forest Fires Burn Massive Scars on Alaska’s Face
Background: Alaska on Fire AND First the Beetles Attacked!
Human activity is ultimately responsible for the intensity and frequency of most present-day forest fires like Alaska’s; to call them ‘wildfires,’ therefore, is disingenuous and unintelligent.
Burn Scars Near Confluence of Yukon and Tanana Rivers, Alaska
infrared-enhanced (visible, shortwave-IR, and near-IR) [acquired August 9, 2009]
natural-color [acquired August 9, 2009]
Cool, wet weather over the second weekend of August moderated fire activity in interior Alaska. When the skies cleared on August 9, 2009, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured these images. Fires that had been churning out thick clouds of smoke the previous week were quiet; according to the daily situation report from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center on August 11, 2009, however, the fires were still smoldering.
The top image is an infrared-enhanced view of the area at the confluence of the Tanana River with the Yukon, west of Fairbanks, made from a combination of visible, shortwave-infrared, and near-infrared light. Vegetation is bright green, water is dark blue (nearly black in marsh pools), and burned areas are brick red. The largest fire in the state, the Railbelt Complex, is partially hidden by clouds at image right. The lower image shows a natural-color (photo-like) view of the area. The muddy waters of the two rivers are light brown, and different kinds of vegetation, including spruce forests and muskeg, appear in shades of green. The burned areas are dark brown. NASA image courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team. Caption by Rebecca Lindsey.
Fires in Interior Alaska [acquired August 3, 2009]
Red flag warnings, cautioning residents that weather conditions were dangerously favorable for the rapid growth of wildfires, were in place for much of eastern Alaska on August 3, 2009, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image. Places where the sensor detected actively burning fires are marked with red dots. Hundreds of thousands of acres were burning at the time of this image. The largest fire, the Railbelt Complex, had grown to more than 481,000 acres as of August 4, and the southern perimeter of the fire was active along a 12-mile front, according to the morning situation report from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.
The large image provided above is at MODIS’ maximum spatial resolution (level of detail). Twice-daily images of interior Alaska are available from the MODIS Rapid Response Team in additional resolutions and formats, including a false-color version that highlights the location of burn scars and georeferenced images that can be used in Google Earth. NASA images courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team. All captions by Rebecca Lindsey.
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