NASA Photos Show The Devastating California Wildfires From Space

Randy Bresnik/NASA

Jonathan O`Callaghan 11 Dec 2017, 16:29

NASA has released images from astronaut Randy Bresnik on the International Space Station (ISS), a NASA plane, and an ESA satellite of the wildfires currently raging across California.

The region is currently battling a number of blazes across a huge area of 570 square kilometers (220 square miles), from north of Los Angeles down to almost the Mexico border.

About 200,000 people have been evacuated from their homes so far, with no end in sight to the highly unusual December fires just yet.

From the ISS, 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth, the fires are clearly visible, as seen in a number of images snapped by Bresnik.

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The largest of the fires at the moment is the Thomas Fire, in Ventura and Santa Barbara, which has scorched 930 square kilometers (360 square miles) in the last week. It is the fifth largest wildfire in the state’s history.

Other fires are starting to be controlled, but since December 4 about 800 buildings have been destroyed. Extreme weather such as low humidity, high winds, and parched ground has fed the flames. President Trump has declared a state of emergency.

NASA has also been surveying the fires with its high-altitude ER-2 plane. From a height of 21,300 meters (70,000 feet), almost twice as high as a commercial airliner, it has been able to see the extent of the fires on the ground, while an ESA satellite has also taken images.

Bresnik's view of the wildfires on December 8. NASA/Randy Bresnik

 

Randy Bresnik/NASA

 

Randy Bresnik/NASA

 

An image from ESA's Sentinel-2 satellite showing a fire in Ventura County. ESA/NASA

 

The view from NASA's ER-2 aircraft on December 5. NASA

Yesterday California Governor Jerry Brown branded these fires “the new normal” as a result of climate change, with extreme fire activity like this expected to happen regularly for decades.

"With climate change, some scientists are saying that Southern California is literally burning up," he said, reported CNN.

"So we have to have the resources to combat the fires and we also have to invest in managing the vegetation and forests... in a place that's getting hotter."

Winds were expected to lessen from up to 97 kilometers per hour (60 miles per hour) yesterday to as low as 32 km/h (20 mph) today, giving firefighters a better chance of getting the fires under control.

But with no rain forecast for the region for as much as two weeks, the threat of continued fires looks likely in the run-up to Christmas.

At least one person has died as a result of the Thomas Fire, Virginia Pesola, 70, who died in a crash while evacuating. About 1,000 fire departments across the state continue to be involved in trying to contain the fires.

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