Southern California Fires Are So Large They Can Be Seen From Space

Chris Dolce
Published: December 6, 2017

Destructive wildfires are raging across Southern California this week as Santa Ana winds continue to howl through the mountainous terrain.

Given how quickly the large fires have spread they can easily be spotted by satellites in space.

(UPDATES: Destructive Wildfires in Southern California)

The first two photos shared by NASA's International Space Station on Wednesday show the blazes captured from high above by the Expedition 53 astronauts.  



An image captured by NASA's Modis satellite used a special sensor to illustrate the earth's surface in Southern California before the fires began on Monday compared to Tuesday.

Notice the orange and brown shaded areas depicting hot spots and burn areas caused by multiple wildfires. The largest one on the far left is associated with the Thomas Fire near the Ventura area.

Visible satellite imagery from Tuesday captured the smoke plumes from the Thomas, Rye and Creek Fires. The most extensive plume on the left was associated with the Thomas Fire.


A zoomed out version of the visible satellite shows the Thomas Fire smoke plume extending out several hundred miles into the Pacific Ocean.


The European Space Agency's Sentinel-2 satellite photographed the smoke plumes in vivid detail Tuesday.


The VIIRS sensor on the Suomi NPP satellite detected the glow of the Thomas fire early Tuesday morning. Also shown is how the satellite was able to sense city lights and power outages in the region.


Several hot spots associated with wildfires are shown in red and yellow in this GOES satellite image from Wednesday morning.

Radar was also able to detect the wildfire smoke plumes in Southern California on Tuesday. The plumes are illustrated in the narrow green shadings over Ventura County.


The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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