Our world is on fire. As a hellish summer rages on in numerous locations spanning from the United States to the Mediterranean coastlines, a frightening number of wildfires are burning across the northern hemisphere.
The fires are part of a larger pattern of wildfires that have been ravaging the Mediterranean this summer, with places in Greece, Lebanon, Syria, and Italy seeing some of the worst fires in decades.
Today, Turkey is on its sixth day in hell. Holiday resorts and rural areas along the Mediterranean coast are being evacuated as firefighters and locals battle fast-spreading flames that authorities say may have been sparked by arson or human carelessness. The blazes have killed at least seven people and damaged precious ecosystems, with thousands of animals perished.
Things aren't much different in the United States, Canada, and Siberia. America's two biggest active wildfires, the Dixie Fire and the Bootleg Fire, have burned nearly the same amount of land as New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago combined, according to CNN, and seven new large fires were recorded Sunday, increasing the total number of wildfires raging in the U.S. to 91, per the National Interagency Fire Center.
Drought and severe heat continue to exacerbate the situation for firefighters battling the flames, but modern technology is stepping in to aid with a special piece of equipment: NASA’s ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) aboard the International Space Station (ISS), according to a press release by NASA.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's ECOSTRESS, which can measure the surface temperature of any location on Earth, not only gives scientists insight into the effects of events like heat waves and droughts on crops but is now assisting crews by specifically monitoring the spread of the Bootleg and Dixie fires and searching for any threats to infrastructure. The data is then sent to a team at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Rapid Analytics for Disaster Response, which utilizes it to assist first responders like the U.S. Forest Service.
NASA stated that ECOSTRESS' capabilities are unique because satellites that collect data more frequently “don’t have high enough resolution to track the fine line of the fire front, and satellites with higher resolution than ECOSTRESS cross over the same area much less frequently (every five to 16 days).”
To battle big fires like those in Bootleg and Dixie, firefighters have a number of instruments at their disposal; but, as NASA points out, data from space-based technologies capable of helping their efforts is a relatively new development. This is a great example of how satellites circling the Earth can help us on the ground in a timely and meaningful manner.
'There's no human intervention that can save these forests if we don't stop climate change'
It's also worth noting that, following the fatal floods in Europe and China, these wildfires are the latest in a string of extreme weather occurrences throughout the world that experts believe are connected to climate change caused by global warming. Climate change has increased the probability of major, catastrophic fires by dramatically heating things up and drying out trees and grasses. In hot, dry weather, infrastructure such as power lines further increases the risk of flames starting and exploding.
"There's no human intervention that can save these forests if we don't stop climate change," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told CNN on July 31. "All of us want more aerial assets, more bulldozers, more trained personnel, but it's kind of like if there's an arsonist at loose, and we have to corral the arsonist. We have to go on the offense."