A new satellite photo captures the wildfires raging throughout the American West, including the biggest conflagration in the history of Washington State.
The photo, which was taken Sunday (Aug. 23) by NASA's Earth-observing Aqua satellite, shows just how bad this fire season has gotten in the western United States. Dozens of active blazes are visible throughout California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.
The largest fire of them all is the Okanogan Complex burn, which started with a lightning strike on Aug. 15 and has since grown to cover more than 400 square miles (1,036 square kilometers). Three firefighters died last week trying to beat back the blaze.
You can keep tabs on the large wildfires sweeping through the West, and learn more about each one of them, at this site maintained by the United States Forest Service: http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us/index.php
The Aqua satellite has been studying Earth's water cycle with six different instruments since its 2002 launch. The spacecraft snapped the new natural-color image using its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS. MODIS' thermal bands detected actively burning areas, which are colored red in the photo, NASA officials said.
Wildfires aren't the only natural disasters Aqua keeps an eye on. The satellite also provides researchers with detailed imagery of hurricanes, such as Super Typhoon Soudelor, which pounded a number of islands throughout the Pacific earlier this month.
- Satellite Photos: Wildfires From Space, June 2012
- Western U.S. Wildfires Seen From Space | Video
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