California is suffering these days the most destructive forest fire in its history, with 48 fatalities and about 80 square kilometers of charred soil. Paradise is the town where most of the deaths and the 220 disappeared have been recorded. In addition to the destruction of some 7,600 houses, as reported by the State Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
NASA’s satellite technology allows us to assess, as never before, the damage caused by the large forest fires that ravage the western coast of the United States. The ARIA (Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis) team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has produced new damage maps using synthetic aperture radar images from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites.
The following map shows the areas that were probably damaged by the Woolsey fire, near Los Angeles, starting on Sunday, November 11. It covers an area of approximately 80 by 40 kilometers, framed by the red polygon. The color variation from yellow to red indicates an increase in change or damage to the soil surface.
Another map (below) shows the damage caused by the Camp Fire in Northern California as of Saturday, November 10. This represents an area of approximately 88 by 77 kilometers and includes the city of Paradise, one of the most devastated areas. As in the previous map, the red areas show the most severe surface change or damage.
The ARIA team compared the data of both images with Google Crisis map for its preliminary validation. And while maps may be less reliable on lands with vegetation, such as farmland, they can help identify badly damaged areas and allocate resources as needed, NASA reports.
Fires are not rare in this part of the world. The campfire, which began Tuesday in northern California, was 17 kilometers long on its first day. Only this fire burned 28,000 hectares in 24 hours. For Neil Laureau, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Nevada (USA) one of the factors is the wind that arrives from the east, opposite to the western ones, that arrive with power from the crest of Sierra Nevada.
The current is amplified at this time of year: cold air travels through the Great Basin in Nevada and is distributed through the Sierra Nevada mountains to eastern California and, as a consequence, winds accelerate in the descent.