NASA is Actively Assisting Authorities to Contain California Wildfires

NASA is Actively Assisting Authorities to Contain California Wildfires

The natural disaster is still causing some irreparable damage in California.

California continued to get ravaged by wildfires this month and these were the deadliest wildfires in the history of the state. NASA recently rose up to assist against these wildfires by using the Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The team uses satellites to track the progression and damage done by the fire. The data is then used to create damage maps which can be analyzed to gather more data.

One of the first maps showed the path of the Woolsey Fires on Sunday, 11th November 2018. According to the recent update, the fire covered an area of around 80km by 40km. On 10th November, another fire near Northern California (the Camp Fire) covered an area of about 88km by 77km. NASA also crosschecked the validity of the data against ‘Google Crisismap’. This data helped the disaster managers to assess the damage done in these parts. David Green, one of these people, talked about their efforts and said,

“When disasters occur, our researchers become providers and distributors of images, data and damage assessments. We draw on NASA’s technical expertise and strong relationships with our partner organizations to provide useful products to disaster managers.”

A lot of the gathered information is available to view at Disasters Mapping Portal, which is based on Geographic Information System (GIS). Emergency personnel can use that data to identify the areas affected by the fire. Even more devastating are the aftermath landslides. As trees burn down, there is nothing holding the soil together. The loose soil can then turn into a deadly landslide which causes further damage to the area. The authorities at NASA referred to that in a blog by saying,

“Strong winds pushed the fire to the south and southwest overnight, tripling its size and spreading smoke over the Sacramento Valley. More than 2,000 personnel have been sent to fight the Camp Fire, which is predicted to be fully contained by November 30. Firefighters are having difficulty containing it due to strong winds, which fan the flames and carry burning vegetation downwind. The area also has heavy and dry fuel loads, or flammable material.”

The devastation caused by the Campfire continues as it has proved to be more damaging than any other wildfire in the area. According to an estimate, 6,700 homes have been burned down by the blaze until now. The Woolsey Fire was only contained at about 10% of the area. Butte County Sheriff, Kory Honea, told the reporters that about 200 people are still unaccounted for in this chaos and at least 44 people were declared dead. NASA’s Earth Observatory created a map that shows the spread of aerosols in Earth’s atmosphere. According to the visualization, there were huge plumes of smoke that drifted over North America. All this was described in the following words:

“If you have ever watched smoke billowing from a wildfire, ash erupting from a volcano, or dust blowing in the wind, you have seen aerosols.”

NASA’s data is incredibly useful as the technology and observations can drastically help improve response times for emergency services. A high-altitude aircraft was also deployed which returned infrared imagery of the forests. These scans, in turn, help predict the number of resources required to counter the fire. Currently, about 17 critical fires are burning in California.

The nearly irreparable damage being done to the area continued even though more than half of the annual fire budget was used in the last 40 days. Using the images provided, the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) Smoke model can be used to provide short-term weather forecasting. The model was developed at the NOAA Earth Systems Research Laboratory. The officials at the Earth Observatory of NASA explained the working of HRRR by saying,

“The High-Resolution Rapid Refresh Smoke model, or HRRR-Smoke, builds on NOAA’s existing HRRR weather model, which forecasts rain, wind, and thunderstorms. It ingests real-time data from the Joint Polar Satellite System’s Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20 polar-orbiting satellites, as well as NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites.”

The smoke from the fires has also caused the people to be cautious of their health as the smoke can quickly spread over populated areas. Over the course of days, these widespread fires have prompted massive evacuations in the area. Unfortunately, a small portion of these fires has been contained as firefighters continue to battle this natural disaster that has been wreaking havoc in California for over a month.

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