Thick smoke streamed from several fires in southern California when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image in the afternoon on 5 December 2017. Photo: Joshua Stevens / NASA Earth Observatory

By Adam Voiland
5 December 2017

(NASA) – Thick smoke streamed from several fires in southern California when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image in the afternoon on 5 December 2017.

The largest of the blazes—the fast-moving Thomas fire in Ventura County—had charred more than 65,000 acres (24,000 hectares or 94 square miles), according to Cal Fire. Smaller smoke plumes from the Creek and Rye fires are also visible.

On the same day, the Multi Spectral Imager (MSI) on the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellite captured a false-color image (below) of the burn scar. Active fires appear orange; the burn scar is brown. Unburned vegetation is green; developed areas are gray. The Sentinel-2 image is based on observations of visible, shortwave infrared, and near infrared light.

The Multi Spectral Imager (MSI) on the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellite captured a false-color image of the burn scar from several fires in southern California on 5 December 2017. Active fires appear orange; the burn scar is brown. Unburned vegetation is green; developed areas are gray. The Sentinel-2 image is based on observations of visible, shortwave infrared, and near infrared light. Photo: Joshua Stevens / NASA Earth Observatory

The fires mainly affected a forested, hilly area to the north of Ventura, but flames have encroached into the northern edge of the city. As of December 6, Cal Fire estimated that 12,000 structures were threatened by fire.

Powerful Santa Ana winds intensified the fires. Forecasters with the Los Angeles office of the National Weather Service warned that the region is in the midst of its strongest and longest Santa Ana wind event of the year. They issued red flag warnings for Los Angles and Ventura counties through December 7, noting that isolated wind gusts of 80 miles (130 kilometers) per hour are possible.

Smoke and Fire in Southern California

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