Mapping California’s Heatwave from Space

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NASA’s Ecosystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment (ECOSTRESS) onboard the International Space Station (ISS) has been mapping temperatures across parts of California from space. A monitor attached to the side of the ISS, the primary mission of ECOSTRESS is to map plant temperatures by measuring changes in evapotranspiration, water that plants release to keep cool. ECOSTRESS can also monitor other heat-related phenomena like heatwaves, wildfires, and volcanoes.

California is currently undergoing a harsh heatwave with record breaking temperatures in many areas. Death Valley recorded what is believed to be the hottest ever recorded temperature on Earth August 9, 2020 with a reading of 130F (54.4C). On August 14th and 16th, ECOSTRESS captured a look at temperatures over two sections of California, the Los Angeles area and the area surrounding Death Valley. With a spatial resolution of 77 by 77 yards (70 by 70 meters), ECOSTRESS was able to map out variations in temperatures across both areas.

Across the Los Angeles area, temperatures ranged from 70 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit (21-52 degrees Celsius). Coastal and mountains areas were the coolest. The San Fernando Valley registered the highest temperature readings. The hottest area recorded was the Ranch Fire, west of Pasadena between Encino and Van Nuys which peaked at 128.3 degrees Fahrenheit (53.5 degrees Celsius) on that day.

ECOSTRESS temperature map shows the land surface temperatures throughout Los Angeles County on Aug. 14, 2020.  Map: NASA/JPL-Caltech
ECOSTRESS temperature map shows the land surface temperatures throughout Los Angeles County on Aug. 14, 2020. Map: NASA/JPL-Caltech

More:

O’Neill, I. J., & Lee, J. J. (2020, August 19). NASA’s ECOSTRESS monitors California’s record-breaking heat wave. NASA. https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/nasas-ecostress-monitors-californias-record-breaking-heat-wave

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