Wildfire smoke streams off the island of La Palma • Earth.com

Wildfire smoke streams off the island of La Palma

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features smoke from a wildfire that broke on the island of La Palma on the morning of July 15, 2023. This image was captured later that day by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

“The bright areas near islands south of La Palma resemble smoke, but they are actually the result of an optical phenomenon caused by sunglint,” explained NASA.

“The fire burned through pine forests west of a large caldera on the northern part of the island. At least 20 buildings were destroyed and 4,000 people evacuated their homes, according to Reuters. On June 16, authorities reported that the fire had charred at least 4,650 hectares (18 square miles).”

The fire was fueled by heat and strong winds. According to the Associated Press, more favorable weather conditions on July 16 helped firefighters slow the blaze. 

“Fires on La Palma are common in summer due to the island’s dry climate. One analysis of tree rings suggests that intense fires burn the island’s forests roughly every 7 years on average, with less intense fires burning every 2-4 years,” said NASA

La Palma is one of the Canary Islands, an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean and a part of Spain. The islands are located off the northwest coast of Africa. 

La Palma is known for its diverse landscapes, which include volcanic features, lush forests, and beautiful beaches. The island’s capital city is Santa Cruz de La Palma. 

One of the main attractions on the island is the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, which features a massive volcanic crater. It’s also home to the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory, one of the world’s leading astronomical observatories. 

The island has been declared a Starlight Reserve, reflecting its commitment to maintaining excellent conditions for stargazing.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 


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