After burning more than 180 square miles (460 square kilometers) of the San Gabriel Mountains in September 2020, the Bobcat fire now ranks amongst the biggest fires on record for Los Angeles County, California. The blaze started on September 6 near Cogswell Dam, and grew gradually over the next 3 weeks in the middle of uncommonly hot, dry conditions.
“Strong winds that have shifted direction several times over the course of the fire helped it spread over such a large area,” described Natasha Stavros, a wildfire specialist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “And the fire is burning on steep terrain with limited access to roads, which made it challenging to contain.”
Stavros sees the finger prints of environment modification in the Bobcat fire and in California’s historical 2020 fire season. “Four of the five largest fires ever recorded in California were burning at the same time as the Bobcat fire,” she stated. “Climate change contributes to megafires like these by heating fuels up, drying them out, and making them more flammable.”
Stavros and other NASA fire professionals have actually been keeping track of the blazes utilizing a suite of satellite sensing units. One of them, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite, got a picture of the burn scar (above) on September 21, 2020, while the fire was still raving in Angeles National Forest. False color makes it much easier to differentiate the burn scar. The image integrates shortwave infrared, near-infrared, and thumbs-up (OLI bands 7-5-2) to reveal active fires (brilliant red), scarred land that has actually been taken in by the fire (darker red), undamaged plant life (green), and cities and facilities (gray).
As the fire worked its method through the national park, it took in big locations of chaparral, brush, and lawn. While flames have actually primarily remained clear of inhabited locations, they drifted into parts of the Juniper Hills and Littlerock communities near Palmdale, resulting in more than 2 lots houses being ruined or harmed. Flames likewise threatened historical Mount Wilson Observatory for numerous days, however the website appears to have actually gotten away severe damage.
While Landsat and other satellites continuously gather information from area that works for keeping track of fires, NASA in some cases releases airplane for sophisticated fire management research study. In this case, the high-flying ER-2 surveyed the Bobcat fire on September 17, 2020, from a height of 65,000 feet (20,000 meters), about two times as high as business airliners fly. The pilot of the airplane took the picture of smoke increasing from the fire revealed above. Meanwhile, the Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) sensing unit on board observed great information of the fire’s temperature level, the water material of plant life canopies, attributes of the smoke, and burn seriousness.
“The ER-2 with AVIRIS was able to image the Bobcat fire on a checkout flight for the NASA Western Diversity Time Series airborne campaign,” stated Robert Green, a senior research study researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the AVIRIS experiment researcher. “These advanced measurements are supporting development and testing of new algorithms that will be used with the space instruments planned for the next decade.”
“We use airborne ‘missions of opportunity’, like the Bobcat fire flight, to improve our understanding of dynamic fire physics and Earth processes,” included Vincent Ambrosia, the associate program supervisor for wildfire research study in NASA’s Earth Applied Sciences Program. “The agency supports the adaptation and operationalization of unique sensor data derived from NASA Earth Observations, such as AVIRIS, to improve national and international disaster management agencies efforts to understand and mitigate wildfire effects.”
According to InciWeb, the blaze was 50 percent consisted of since September 24 thanks to the efforts of more than 1,600 firemens. While cooler weather condition and lighter winds assisted firemens slow the spread in current days, forecasters prepare for that warning burning conditions might quickly return as another heat wave and more powerful winds go back to southern California in the coming days.
NASA Earth Observatory image by Lauren Dauphin, utilizing Landsat information from the U.S. Geological Survey. Photograph by Tim Williams (NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center).