View From Space: Australia’s Wildfires

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By November 20, 2019 at least 45 fires in South Australia and 49 in New South Wales were observed burning in Australia.  These springtime fires have affected southern and eastern Australian states.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired a natural-color image acquired this image of smoke rising from wildfires burning in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland.


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Wildfires burning in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland, Australia. Satellite image: NASA's Aqua satellite, acquired November 19, 2019.
Wildfires burning in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland, Australia. Satellite image: NASA’s Aqua satellite, acquired November 19, 2019.

Smoke from the wildfire is unusual in that it is rising very high into the Earth’s atmosphere.  Researchers have determined that the smoke is reaching as high as 12 to 13 kilometers (7 to 8 miles) in the atmosphere.  Aerosols and other pollutants from the smoke have been observed traveling across the Pacific and reaching South America.

This visualization from NASA using remotely sensed data shows how the smoke traveled across the Pacific Ocean from Australia towards South America:

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