Dense, billowing white and gray smoke pours from wildfires and shrouds the ground near Nizhny Novgorod, western Russia, as the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite passed overhead on July 27, 2010. The city lies at the confluence of the Oka and the Volga Rivers, just southeast of center in this image. It is the fourth largest city in Russia, the administrative center of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast and the Volga Federal District, and home to more than 1.3 million people. Although it lies in a relatively clear section of the image, the city is almost entirely obscured by haze, smoke and cloud cover.
Major fires can be seen as large red hotspots in the forests east of Nizhny Novgorod and north of the meandering Volga River, and also as a bright band of large hotspots in the western mountains. The extremely dense, billowing white smoke and large red squares in the southwest of this image marks intense infernos, where both forest and peat blaze out of control.
The fires ignited in late July, after weeks of extreme heat joined a long-standing drought to turn vegetation tinder-dry. Reported as the hottest summer since record keeping began in Russia 130 years ago, highs of 40°C (104°F) have been reported, with many days exceeding 35°C (95°F). In the region, the average high in July is only 19°C (66°F).
Although many of the fires captured in this image have come under control, weather forecasts call for continuing hot, dry conditions and “extreme” fire danger in many regions. So far this year, fires have burned over 729,761 hectares and killed at least 52 people in Russia. At least 540 homes were destroyed in the area covered by this image.