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February 23, 2014 - Smoke plume from Australian fires
Smoke plume from Australian fires Image used for Spacing Purposes
Satellite: Terra
Date Acquired: 2/10/2014
Resolutions: 1km (485.6 KB)
500m (1.6 MB)
250m (3.7 MB)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Credit: Jeff Schmaltz
MODIS Land Rapid Response Team,
NASA GSFC

Extreme heat and strong winds helped fan numerous bushfires in Victoria, Australia in the first weeks of February, 2014. According to the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) News, 432 fires burned across the state in the first weeks of that month. By February 11 about 6,000 firefighters had been mobilized to help cope with the “worst fire situation since Black Saturday” – a reference to Saturday, February 2009 when as many as 400 individual fires burned on that day alone, causing the deaths of 173 people, and 414 injuries.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellite flew over the region on February 10 and captured this true-color image. At that time, clouds over southeastern Victoria hid many of the fires from view, but a massive band of gray smoke poured hundreds of kilometers across the Tasman Sea. The smoke blows generally from west to east across this image, apparently rising above and blowing across part of the bank of clouds over the Sea. One thin, smoky gray band curls south roughly parallel to the coast. Not to be confused with smoke, a uniformly gray band of sun glint – an area where the sun reflects back to the instrument in mirror-like fashion – can be seen running north to south approximately in the center of the image.

Much of the smoke rose from several large bushfires in and around Snowy River National Park. The largest of the fires, Yalmy, had burned 79,893 hectares as of February 10, while the nearby Boning fire burned 11,952 hectares, and Club Terrace, 7,843 hectares. Other smaller fires also burned in the region. Lightning ignited many of the fires, but 14 fires are suspected as human-ignited, and are being investigated as potential arson.

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