September 3, 2012 - Fires and smoke in western United States

Fires and smoke in western United States

On August 29, 2012 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite flew above the western United State and captured this true-color image of dozens of fires burning across the region. The majority of the fires captured in this image are in the Rocky Mountains of Idaho. Other fires can be seen in Montana and Wyoming, both to the east of Montana, and in Oregon (west) and northern California (far southwest).

On September 2, Inciweb reported 32 active fires in Idaho, the largest having consumed 215,110 acres. This fire, the Mustang Complex fire, resulted from thunderstorms and lightning over the weekend of July 28-29. Five of the fires which ignited that weekend, the Mustang, Broomtail, Roan, Cayuse and East Butte, burned together over the next four weeks. This complex lies near the border with Montana, and is visible as the largest red “hotspot” in the image, with dense smoke plumes pouring smoke northeastward across Montana. As of September 2, the Mustang Complex fire was reported as only 16% contained, with unstable conditions and increasing winds making the risk of fire growth high.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climatic Data Center, during July of this year, warm and dry weather brought ideal wildfire conditions to a large portion of the United States. 2.01 million acres were burned by wildfires in that month, which is the 4th most on record. Although statistics for August are not available yet, the warm, dry weather continued throughout August, as did the wildfires.

According to Inciweb, several of the fires burning on August 28, including the Mustang Complex fire, are not expected to be contained until at least September 30.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 8/29/2012
Resolutions: 1km ( B), 500m ( B), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC