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Western Wildfire Smoke Spotted from Space
NASA's Aqua satellite captured an image of three major wildfires in Idaho on Aug. 14.
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

NASA's Aqua satellite captured an image of three major wildfires in Idaho and the thick smoke from the blazes, which is billowing over neighboring Wyoming, on Aug. 14.

In some places it is so thick you cannot see the ground, meaning people on the ground likely cannot see the sky.

The largest of the wildfires is the Halstead Fire, which as of today (Aug. 17) has already charred more than 131 square miles (339 square kilometers) and is only three percent contained, according to the National Forest Service. It was sparked by lightning in July, and is fueled by beetle-killed stands of lodgepole pine.

North of the Halstead Fire, a collection of wildfires known as the Mustang Complex has burned 125 square miles (323 square km). Those fires were 5 percent contained as of today. To the south is the Trinity Ridge fire, which has chewed through 113 square miles (293 square km) of Boise National Forest. Lightning ignited the Mustang fire while human activities started the Trinity Ridge blaze.

The second image shows smoke billowing over Wyoming, from fires in Idaho as well as California, Oregon and Nevada. Western blazes have reduced air quality throughout the country. Smoke plumes stretch from northern California eastward to the Upper Midwest and northward into Canada, according to the Smog Blog at the University of Maryland.

Over the western United States, smoke has mixed with ozone and prompted several air-quality alerts, according to the blog.

In the first image, red outlines indicate hot spots where wildfires are burning and increasing surface temperatures.

Wildfires raged through Colorado and throughout the Southwest earlier this summer. Now the western states of California, Oregon, Nevada and Idaho are feeling the burn. Today, 35 fires blazed across the four states, burning through vegetation ranging from sagebrush to grass to the beetle-killed pine forests.

There are currently 16 blazes in Idaho, and a total of 57 large fires burning throughout the country, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. These blazes have charred 10,228 square miles (26,490 square kilometers). That's above the 10-year average for this date, which is 7,910 square miles (20,486 square km).

It's been a bad year for wildfires, partially due to the intense drought gripping much of the country.

Smoke billowing over Wyoming, from fires in Idaho as well as California, Oregon and Nevada, on Aug. 14.
Smoke billowing over Wyoming, from fires in Idaho as well as California, Oregon and Nevada, on Aug. 14.
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

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