NASA satellite image shows huge extent of wildfire smoke

NASA has posted a dramatic image taken from space showing the huge amount of smoke billowing from the devastating wildfires burning in parts of the Western U.S.

The image (below) was taken this week by the space agency’s Terra satellite around 440 miles above Earth.

The red marks indicate where the wildfires are currently burning from Washington down to California, with the resulting smoke — the browner section in the middle of the image — drifting westward toward the Pacific Ocean.

NASA

The image below, however, is also significant. Generated by NASA’s Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite, it shows aerosol concentrations ranging from 0.0 (colorless through light yellow, yellow, orange, and red) to 5.0 (deep red), with 5.0 indicating heavy concentrations of aerosols that could reduce visibility or adversely affect health.

NASA

“High aerosol concentrations not only can affect climate and reduce visibility, they also can impact breathing, reproduction, the cardiovascular system, and the central nervous system, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” NASA said in a piece on its website.

“Since aerosols are able to remain suspended in the atmosphere and be carried in prevailing high-altitude wind streams, they can travel great distances away from their source and their effects can linger as evidenced in the image found below.”

NASA

NASA is warning people — including those far away from the fires — to do what they can to limit their exposure to the smoke as it drifts into towns and cities along the West Coast

“Individuals are advised to limit their physical exertion if exposure to high levels of smoke cannot be avoided,” it said, adding that those with “cardiovascular or respiratory conditions (e.g., asthma), fetuses, infants, young children, and the elderly may be more vulnerable to the health effects of smoke exposure.”

Numerous wildfires currently raging in California have so far caused 10 deaths. Cal Fire tweeted: “The 2020 fire season has been record-breaking, in not only the total amount of acres burned at just over 3 million, but also 6 of the top 20 largest wildfires in California history have occurred this year.”

Meanwhile, in Oregon, around half a million people have so far been forced to flee their homes as some of the fires spread into communities. Five deaths have so far been reported in Washington and Oregon.

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