Photo and press release from NASA’s Earth Observatory:
Image from the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, acquired August 18, 2013 — 50 mm lens. Looking to the west, over Idaho. See photo below for labels of fire sites.
Description of the photo:
Taken with a short lens (50 millimeters), this west-looking image from the International Space Station includes much of forested central Idaho. The oblique image highlights part of the largest single wilderness area in the contiguous United States, the Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness.
Within this mountainous region (the dark areas are all wooded), several fires produced extensive smoke plumes. The densest smoke appeared to be generated by a combination of the Little Queens and Leggit fires (within the Salmon River Mountains [link added]). This image shows the common pattern of westerly winds carrying smoke in an easterly direction, as seen during the wildfire season of one year ago.
Named fires—most ignited by lightning—had burned 53,000 acres of forest south of the Salmon River by August 20, 2013; the number would be significantly higher if unnamed fires were included. The Gold Pan fire, north of the Salmon River, had burned 27,000 acres. For a sense of scale, Gold Pan lies about 125 miles (200 kilometers) north of the Little Queens fire.
Ten days before this image was taken, fires in central Idaho (near Boise) had been aggravated by southerly winds. Some of those fires began to burn in July, but were quelled and remain under observation for new flare-ups.
In the image above, smoke partly obscures the black lava flows of the Craters of the Moon National Monument [link added] (lower left). The Beaverhead Mountains [link added] mark the eastern boundary of Idaho with Montana.
Astronaut photograph ISS036-E-32853 was acquired on August 18, 2013, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using a 50 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 36 crew. It has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson, Jacobs/JETS at NASA-JSC.
Salmon River Mountains, Idaho, on the ground; notice the steep mountains on-the-ground firefighters must contend with. Wikipedia image
Instrument: ISS – Digital Camera
My older brother Dwight was a firefighter with the Bureau of Land Management in the early 1960s. There were some huge fires then — but not so many, so large, all at once. While we don’t have satellite photos to compare from way back then, this is just scary. Those were scary on the ground, and smaller than these — and fewer.
Notice in the photo below, some of these huge fires are not even big enough to be named. Wow.
Image from the International Space Station of Idaho fires, with names of larger fires overlayed. August 23, 2013
Compare with NASA photo from a month ago; Idaho’s been hammered by fire in 2013:
Photo of Idaho from about July 20, 2013, showing then-active fires in the state — north at top of photo. Notice Craters of the Moon National Monument, the dark area in the southeast section — this area is obscured by new fires in the photos above. Idaho’s borders are barely visible in a thin, black line. This photo from NASA/Goddard