NASA’s Ecosystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer
Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) captured a birds-eye view of
the vast Apple fire raging in Southern California.
The wildfire began on the evening of Friday, July 31, after
two smaller fires merged and rapidly grew in the hot conditions in Riverside County,
east of Los Angeles, prompting the evacuation of thousands of residents. Air
temperatures have soared past 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius),
stressing the vegetation and turning the area into a tinderbox. By Monday, the
wildfire had exploded to over 26,000 acres.
ECOSTRESS recorded the image above at
1:15 p.m. PST (4:15 p.m. EDT) on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, when the burn area was
approximately 4,000 acres in size. In the image, the black smoke plume can be
seen drifting east and over Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert. With
a spatial resolution of about 77 by 77 yards (70 by 70 meters), the image
enables researchers to study surface-temperature conditions down to the size of
a football field. In the active burn area,
temperatures of between 390 and 1290 degrees Fahrenheit (200 and 700 degrees Celsius)
were recorded, and in one pixel in the ECOSTRESS image of the burn zone, a
peak temperature of 1387 degrees Fahrenheit (753 degrees Celsius) was detected.
Tasked with detecting plant water use and stress, ECOSTRESS’s primary mission
is to measure the temperature of plants heating up as they run out of water. But
it can also measure and track heat-related phenomena like fires, heat waves,
and volcanoes. Due to the space station’s unique orbit, the mission can acquire
images of the same regions at different times of the day, as opposed to
crossing over each area at the same time of day like satellites in other orbits
do. This is advantageous when monitoring plant stress in the same area throughout
the day, for example.
The ECOSTRESS mission launched to the
space station on June 29, 2018. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of
Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages the mission for the Earth
Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in
Washington. ECOSTRESS is an Earth Venture Instrument mission; the program is
managed by NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder program at NASA’s Langley
Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
More information about ECOSTRESS is available here:
For information on Earth
science activities aboard the International Space Station, visit:
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Ian J. O’Neill / Jane J. Lee
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
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Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory