11 Dec 2012:
NASA Visualization Captures
Record Year for Wildfires in the U.S.
This year has been an unusually severe one for wildfires in the U.S., with more than 9.1 million acres of land burned through the end of November, federal officials say. The total affected area, which is
depicted in a new NASA map (right), is already the third-largest since records were first kept
in 1960, and will likely break previous records by year’s end. The most intense fires occurred in the western U.S., where several major fires during the early summer — sparked by a combination of drought, light winter snow pack, and the long-term effects of climate change — forced evacuations in some areas. In the visualization, which shows all fires that occurred between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, areas of yellow and orange indicate larger and more intense fires, while many of the less intense fires, shown in red, represent prescribed burns started for brush clearing or agriculture and ecosystem management. The visualization was based on data collected by NASA satellites. “This type of long-term fire monitoring will only become more important as the climate changes and certain areas prone to fire become drier,” Louis Giglio, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said during a recent meeting
of the American Geophysical Union.