Satellite sees Western U.S. high mountain blazes

Jul 16, 2012
This shows Suomi NPP image of the Little Bear Fire. Credit: NOAA/NASA/University of Maryland/Wilfrid Schroeder, VIIRS Active Fires team

( -- Two of the most destructive fires in the history of Colorado and New Mexico have both now been contained. Together, the High Park Fire in Colorado and the Little Bear Fire in New Mexico have burned well over one hundred thousand acres and destroyed hundreds of homes and other buildings, displacing thousands of people and taking one life. Officials believe the blazes were caused by lightning strikes combined with dry hot summer conditions.

These two image comparisons show how the Little Bear Fire and the High Park Fire grew over a 24-hour time period from June 9 to June 10. The red contours on the images represent areas of heat showing active fires. Taken by the Visible Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite, a joint NASA-NOAA mission, these images provide active fire data as emergency response teams continue to fight the fires.

The Little Bear fire in Lincoln County, N.M., burned a total of 44,300 acres before being 100 percent contained.

his shows Suomi NPP image of the High Park Fire. Credit: NOAA/NASA/University of Maryland/Wilfrid Schroeder, VIIRS Active Fires team

The High Park Fire is located about 15 miles west of Fort Collins, in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and the . By June 10 had consumed more than 20,000 acres, and by July 6, the fire was 100 percent contained and had burned 87,284 acres.

Wilfrid Schroeder is part of the VIIRS Active Fires team and is a research scientist with the University of Maryland Interdisciplinary Center, College Park, Md. He says VIIRS data will be used by the U.S. Forest Service and the . Schroeder says, "In addition to that, the science community will use the input for various emissions models that monitor and predict air quality and smoke dispersion."

VIIRS continues a legacy set by the (MODIS), an instrument aboard NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites. VIIRS imagery has a higher spatial resolution than MODIS imagery, which means you're seeing a smaller area per pixel. In the case of MODIS data each pixel looks at over a half mile (1 kilometer) while VIIRS data looks at one fifth and one half of a mile (375 and 750 meters).

Ivan Csiszar leads the VIIRS Active Fires team. Csiszar works at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service (NESDIS) Center for Satellite Applications and Research in Camp Springs, Md. He says these data will help save lives and property.

"As VIIRS is a higher resolution sensor than MODIS, we can potentially detect smaller fires with it. That way we can also detect developing fires at an earlier stage," Csiszar says. This will provide improved information for fire managers, but will also support scientific studies of ignition and behavior.

The VIIRS Active Fires Team website shows data over North America. Measurements from VIIRS are still preliminary as scientists and engineers continue testing and calibrating the instrument.

Explore further: Images released of shipwreck in San Francisco Bay

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA satellite sees several western US fires blazing

Jun 22, 2012

Fires are raging in the western U.S. and in one overpass from its orbit around the Earth, NASA's Aqua satellite picked up smoke and identified hot spots from fires in Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.

Image: High Park fire, Colorado

Jun 12, 2012

( -- NASA's Aqua satellite passed over the High Park Fire in Colorado on June 10, 2012 at 2030 UTC (4:30 p.m. EDT) and captured this visible image of the thick pall of smoke blowing east, just north ...

Colorado's High Park fire: June 20, 2012

Jun 21, 2012

Colorado's High Park Fire continues to expand and generate a lot of smoke visible on NASA satellite imagery. NASA's Terra satellite showed winds from the west-southwest blowing the smoke to the north-northeast ...

Colorado's 'Reservoir Road Fire' can be seen from space

Sep 14, 2010

NASA's Aqua satellite flies around the Earth twice a day and captures visible and infrared imagery. On Sept. 12 at 19:20 UTC (3:20 p.m. EDT), the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument ...

NASA satellites see wildfires across Colorado

Jun 26, 2012

Nearly half of the United States' airborne fire suppression equipment was operating over Colorado on June 25, 2012, CNN reported, as tens of thousands of acres burned. Fires raged in southwestern Colorado, ...

NASA's NPP satellite acquires first VIIRS image

Nov 22, 2011

The Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) onboard NASA's newest Earth-observing satellite, NPP, acquired its first measurements on Nov. 21, 2011. This high-resolution image is of a broad swath of ...

Recommended for you

How productive are the ore factories in the deep sea?

4 hours ago

About ten years after the first moon landing, scientists on earth made a discovery that proved that our home planet still holds a lot of surprises in store for us. Looking through the portholes of the submersible ...

NASA image: Volcanoes in Guatemala

8 hours ago

This photo of volcanoes in Guatemala was taken from NASA's C-20A aircraft during a four-week Earth science radar imaging mission deployment over Central and South America. The conical volcano in the center ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Study links California drought to global warming

While researchers have sometimes connected weather extremes to man-made global warming, usually it is not done in real time. Now a study is asserting a link between climate change and both the intensifying California drought ...

Untangling Brazil's controversial new forest code

Approved in 2012, Brazil's new Forest Code has few admirers. Agricultural interests argue that it threatens the livelihoods of farmers. Environmentalists counter that it imperils millions of hectares of forest, ...

Autism Genome Project delivers genetic discovery

A new study from investigators with the Autism Genome Project, the world's largest research project on identifying genes associated with risk for autism, has found that the comprehensive use of copy number variant (CNV) genetic ...

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.