NASA’s images from space show the full, devastating extent of the West Coast wildfires

A pyrocumulus cloud over the August Complex Wildfire, with infrared overlay on September 9, 2020. 

Copernicus Sentinel/Sentinel Hub/Pierre Markuse

NASA’s Aqua captured this image of a huge number of wildfires that have broken out in Oregon. Some began in August, but the majority started after an unprecedented and historically rare windstorm that  swept through the Cascade foothills in the afternoon of Monday Sep. 7 through the morning of Tuesday Sep. 8.  Wind gusts up to 65 mph were clocked during the event. The timing of the windstorm was unusual because those strong east winds usually occur in in the dead of winter–not in early September.  In addition to the heat, it is another example of the changing weather patterns that are being seen.  Some fires in Oregon were already aflame since they began in mid-August, but the size of the conflagrations was small.  In fact, the Beachie Creek fire on the morning of Sep. 7 was only 469 acres. After the windstorm began the fire grew overnight to over 131,000 acres driven by high winds and extremely dry fuels. Other fires grew as well, and a large number of fires were started on Sep. 8, most likely from flaming debris or perhaps by lightning strikes. Whatever the cause, the winds overnight drove those fires to expand exponentially and quickly as well. 

The smoke from fires is seen cascading off the coast into the Pacific Ocean traveling more than 600 miles just in this image. It is striking how thick and concentrated the smoke is in this image, and many cities and towns up and down the entire West Coast are reporting almost “nightlike” conditions and red-orange skies created by particles in the air blocking out all other colors. Editor: Lynn Jenner