Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features large plumes of smoke over British Columbia, where a combination of heat, drought, and lightning triggered fire outbreaks in July 2023.
According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center, nearly 600 fires burned throughout the country on July 13, with about half of these raging in British Columbia or Alberta.
“Several blazes in British Columbia have produced smoke-infused storm clouds known as pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb) in recent weeks, though the features are not apparent in this image,” says NASA. “Scientists track these towering, heat-generated storms closely because they loft smoke high in the atmosphere where fast-moving upper-level winds spread the smoke widely.”
David Peterson is an atmospheric scientist with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. By July 13, Peterson and colleagues had observed 90 pyroCbs in Canada alone in 2023. The country’s previous record, set in 2021, was 50.
“We observed 14 pyroCbs with satellites on July 9-10 alone – several in British Columbia and some in Quebec,” said Peterson. “This surge in activity has made 2023 the most active year for pyroCbs both in Canada and worldwide since we began tracking their numbers closely about a decade ago.”
As of July 12, 2023, more than 1.2 million hectares (3 million acres) had burned in British Columbia – roughly 30 times the average at this point in the year.
The image was captured on July 12, 2023 by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite.
Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory