December 12, 2012 - Fires and smoke in eastern Australia

Fires and smoke in eastern Australia

As a hot, dry spring fades and summer approaches, multiple bushfires blaze across Australia in December, 2012. When the Aqua satellite passed over eastern Australia on December 6, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument flying aboard acquired this true-color image of fires and heavy smoke.

Most of the fires burn in Queensland, with a few blazes located along the coast of New South Wales. The billowing smoke plumes blow in various directions, illustrating the direction of the prevailing wind, which had been changeable with gusty conditions across most of the region.

On December 3, the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC News) reported that the weather bureau predicted severe to extreme weather conditions would prevail across the region, with fire risks which had not been seen since the 2002 bushfires season with devastated Toowoomba, Tara and Stanthorpe districts. Gusting winds and dry conditions, combined with high temperatures and extremely low humidity combined to make fires extremely hard to control. The temperatures rose above 40C (104F) in Queensland interior, and up to 44C (111F) in Winton.

On December 6, The Queensland Fire and Rescue Service said there were 54 active fires burning across the state, with conditions remaining volatile and grassfires continuing to burn from central Queensland to the Cape. Moderate rainfall in the north brought smoky haze and falling ash being pushed along by winds from that region.

One of the largest bushfires, located on the Darling Downs, had burnt about 21,000 hectares. It had burned primarily in the national park, but had threatened homes as fire fighters worked to contain the blaze. This fire continued to burn on December 10, although it no longer posed any immediate threat to homes.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 12/6/2012
Resolutions: 1km ( B), 500m ( B), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC