August 5, 2013 - Washington


The Pacific Northwest is notoriously cloudy, with several cities finishing high in the short list of the cloudiest cities in the continental United States. Astoria, Oregon leads the pack with only 38 clear days a year. Olympia, Washington and the Seattle-Tacoma airport closely follow with 52 and 58 days of clear days annually, respectively, according to the Western Regional Climate Center.

On July 25, 2013, the skies over the state of Washington were cloud-free, allowing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite to capture this true-color image of the region.

Black borderlines have been overlain on the image to delineate boundaries. British Columbia, Canada lies in the far north of the image, with Washington (United States) to the south. Below Washington lies Oregon, with the curving Columbia River running along much of the boundary between the two states.

A bank of cloud hangs over coastal Vancouver Island, and a bank of low cloud (fog) lingers over part of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. South of the fog, and about 100 mi (160 km) south of the Canada-United States border, the city of Seattle can be seen as a large gray smudge on the east side of Puget Sound. Snow caps the high peaks of the Olympic Mountains, in the west, and the northern peaks of the Cascade Range. In the east, the circular and arid center of the Columbia Basin appears light tan.

The summer of 2013 has brought extreme heat and dryness across the Pacific Northwest and eight major wildfires burned through the emerald forests and green grasslands in late July. As of July 25, wildfires had burned 10, 200 acres in Washington, while 603 fires in Oregon had burned 63,315 acres.

The most notable wildfire in Washington, marked in this image by a large red hotspot and billowing smoke, was the Mile Marker 28 fire burning in the Simcoe Mountains northeast of Goldendale. It began on July 24, at approximately 11:00 a.m. local time, and began to burn aggressively in the dried fuel. On August 4, Inciweb reported that the fire had consumed 27,102 acres, and was 87% contained. It is expected to be completely contained by August 6. The cause of this fire is under investigation.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 7/25/2013
Resolutions: 1km ( B), 500m ( B), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC