NASA observations aid efforts to track California’s wildfire smoke from space

NASA observations aid efforts to track California's wildfire smoke from space
On Aug. 31, MODIS detected several hotspots in the August Complex Fire in California, as well as several other actively burning areas to the north, west, and south. Credit: R. Kahn/K.J. Noyes/NASA Goddard/A. Nastan/JPL Caltech/J. Tackett/J-P Vernier/NASA Langley

Wildfires have been burning across the state of California for weeks—some of them becoming larger complexes as different fires merge. One of those was the August Complex Fire, which reportedly began as 37 distinct fires caused by lightning strikes in northern California on Aug. 17. That fire is still burning over a month later.

The August Complex Fire and others this fire season have been sending far-reaching plumes of wildfire smoke into the atmosphere that worsen air quality in California and beyond. Predicting where that smoke will travel and how bad the air will be downwind is a challenge, but Earth-observing satellites can help. Included among them are NASA’s Terra and CALIPSO

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