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Best Earth Images of the Week - Sept. 7, 2012

Swirling haze

The Williams fire, near Los Angeles.

(Image credit: Rich Szlavko)

Thick columns of smoke continue to rise from a wildfire that is chewing its way through the steep brush of the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles, Calif., in photos taken by agencies helping to fight the wildfire.

The Williams Fire, named after the Camp Williams Resort near where it started on Sunday (Sept. 2), has already torched 6 square miles (15.4 square km) of forest as of today (Sept. 5). It isn't expected to be contained for more than a week, according to the National Forest Service.

[Full Story: Photos Show New Wildfire Raging Near Los Angeles]

Surprising shark shot

A school of hammerheads

(Image credit: Wayne Davis)

Wayne Davis has been spotting fish for 40 years, flying his airplane low over the water in search of bluefin tuna and swordfish. Usually he guides commercial fishermen to them.

But in all of his flights over the Atlantic from his home in Wakefield, R.I., he's seen a lot of other animals, including sharks and whales. And he's taken photographs.

[Full Story: Whales & Sharks from Above: A Fish Spotter's Amazing Tale]

Enlightening scans

Lidar scan of New Orleans bridge after Hurricane Isaac.

(Image credit: USGS.)

Hurricane Isaac sent sheets of rain from the sky and ocean waters surging ashore, inundating large regions of the Gulf Coast with devastating floods last week. Teams of scientists are already on the ground, using advanced laser-imaging technology to capture the storm's effects in 3D.

Teams with the U.S. Geological Survey are using lidar (short for light detection and ranging) to help make intricately detailed topographic maps of the floodwaters Isaac brought to the hardest hit population centers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

[Full Story: Hurricane Isaac's Devastating Flooding Captured in 3D]

Mountainous remnants

California's Sutter Buttes, a volcano remnant

(Image credit: NASA)

Rising almost 2,000 feet (610 meters) above the flat agricultural fields of the Great Valley of central California, the Sutter Buttes present a striking contrast to the land around them in this photo taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station on July 29.

The Buttes are yellowish tan in the middle of the image, surrounded by green farmland. Urban areas such as Yuba City, California located 11 miles (18 kilometers) to the southeast appear as light to dark gray stippled regions.

[Full Story: The Smallest Mountain Range in the World]

Shocking snowfall

Snow covers the highlands of the Putorana Plateau in central Siberia in this image taken by NASA's Terra satellite on Sept. 4, 2012.

(Image credit: NASA)

The seasons are once again shifting, with the Northern Hemisphere headed into autumn and the Southern Hemisphere emerging into spring. In satellite images of spots in both hemispheres, snow has left its mark on the changing landscape.

On Sept. 4, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite snapped a picture of snow covering the highlands of the Putorana Plateau in central Siberia, a NASA release said.

[Full Story: Snow Falls in Northern & Southern Hemispheres]