Wildfires in Central Alaska
Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC
Numerous active fires are burning in central Alaska, with exceptionally warm and dry conditions expected to persist until late June, when precipitation is expected to return to normal. The fire season began at least three weeks ahead of schedule, and firefighters have been struggling to contain fires of human and natural causes that have burned more than 500,000 acres to date--an area almost 200,000 acres larger than the City of Los Angeles. Some fires have been burning since May and have reached sizes of 100,000 acres. These true- and false-color images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite show numerous fires (red dots) burning in central Alaska on June 17, 2002. Heavy smoke is streaming from the fires and spreading to the east. Smoke to the southwest could indicate a shift in wind direction from previous days, or could be due to fires too small to be detected by MODIS. In the false-color image, vegetation is green, and burned areas are reddish brown. Snow and sea ice are blue, and clouds are white or white mixed with blue. Arcing around to the northwest of the fires the Yukon River can be seen making its way across central Alaska and dipping southward before heading west to empty into the Bering Sea. The Norton Sound is brown with sediment at the Yukon Delta. To the north, the east-west running Brooks Range looks purple in the false color image, as the remaining snow cover, which appears blue, mingles with the reddish signal that indicates bare soil. In the mountains, it appears that winter has retreated, but spring has not yet begun.