Massive Smoke Plume From New South Wales Fires

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
February 3, 2020
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Massive Smoke Plume From New South Wales Fires
Image Credit: Data and imagery from LANCE FIRMS operated by NASA's Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS). Caption: NASA/Goddard, Lynn Jenner with information from the FIRMS website.

Huge clouds of smoke spilled off the southeastern coast of Australia in this NASA Terra satellite image taken with the MODIS instrument (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) on Jan. 31, 2020.
No rain clouds are in sight to quench the fires and smoke that are streaming over the Southern Pacific Ocean from New South Wales, Australia. The data from Terra was uploaded to the Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) which then distributes the Near Real-Time (NRT) active fire data within 3 hours of satellite observation from both MODIS and NASA’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). The fires in this image have burned hundreds of miles of Australian land leaving behind scorched earth. These fires have also decimated wildlife across the region. Many residents have lost homes to the fires and some have lost their lives.

NASA’s satellite instruments are often the first to detect wildfires burning, and the locations of new fires are sent directly to land managers worldwide within hours of the satellite overpass. Together, NASA instruments detect actively burning fires, track the transport of smoke from fires, provide information for fire management, and map the extent of changes to ecosystems, based on the extent and severity of burn scars. NASA has a fleet of Earth-observing instruments, many of which contribute to our understanding of fire in the Earth system. Satellites in orbit around the poles provide observations of the entire planet several times per day, whereas satellites in a geostationary orbit provide coarse-resolution imagery of fires, smoke and clouds every five to 15 minutes. Actively burning areas, detected by MODIS’s thermal bands, are outlined in red. For more information visit:

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