Southern California Wildfires

November 01, 2003


Provided by: Earth Observatory, NASA GSFC
Summary authors & editors: Earth Observatory

Several massive wildfires have been raging across southern California during the past week. These fires are driven by the hot, dry Santa Ana winds that blow toward the coast from interior deserts when high-pressure systems are positioned over the southwestern U.S. One fire consumed 10,000 acres in just 6 hours! The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite captured the above image on October 26, 2003. The red polygons indicate precisely where the fires are burning, or have recently burned. Smoke can be seen on more recent images extending more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) off the southern California coast. At least a dozen lives have been lost as a result of these wildfires (several fires appear due to arson), and well over a thousand homes have been burned to the ground. In the San Diego area, these wildfires are the worst ever experienced.

Image courtesy Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Thanks also to David Lynch and Hank Brandli.

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