The picture on the left was taken on 4 July 2013, before the oil explosion, while the image on the right is from 6 July 2013, when the accident occurred. Photo: NASA

By Andrew Freedman
9 July 2013

(ClimateCentral) – The explosion and fires that followed a runaway oil train slamming into the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec were so powerful that they were visible from space. At least 13 people died and about three dozen are still reported missing after the accident on July 6. The train was carrying crude oil from the Bakken oil field in North Dakota to a refinery in Newfoundland, which is on the northeast coast of Canada. The incident has ignited a renewed debate about the safety of transporting oil by train instead of pipeline, which is becoming increasingly common in Canada and parts of the U.S. as both countries tap into newly accessible deposits in North Dakota, Alberta, and other areas.

The explosion and fire that followed it devastated the small town, wiping out 30 homes and forcing several thousand to evacuate. The blast and ensuing fires were seen from space via an instrument aboard NASA's Suomi NPP satellite, which was launched in 2012. 

Here is how NASA described the images:

"The image on the right was acquired at 6:59 GMT (2:59 a.m. local time) on July 6 by the instrument’s 'day-night band,' which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe signals such as city lights, auroras, fires, and reflected moonlight. The image on the left, shown for comparison, was acquired by the same instrument on July 4, before the derailment. Light sources are not as crisp in the July 6 image because of cloud cover." [more]

Quebec Oil Train Explosion Visible from Space



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