More than 4.7 million acres have burned in western wildfires • Earth.com

Last update: September 20th, 2020 at 4:00 pm

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory shows the extent of aerosols that were released from devastating wildfires in the western United States and traveled across the country.

Even though climate scientists have anticipated that wildfires will intensify in the West, the scope of these fires has left many experts at a loss for words. 

Prolonged drought, record-breaking heat, unusually dry air, and fierce winds have all contributed to the fire outbreak.

“We had a perfect storm of meteorological factors come together that encouraged extreme burning,” said Vincent Ambrosia, the associate program manager for wildfire research in NASA’s Earth Applied Sciences Program. 

“That was layered on top of shifting climate patterns – a long term drying and warming of both the air and vegetation – that is contributing to the growing trend we are seeing toward larger, higher-intensity fires in the U.S. West.”

By September 12, 2020, there were still 95 active fires, more than 4.7 million acres had burned, thousands of homes had been destroyed, and at least 24 people had been killed.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown said this could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfires in the state’s history.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

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