Smoke plumes from fires, volcanoes, and pollution are all reaching high into the atmosphere and can therefore very easily be detected from space. Most recently, Astronaut Karen Nyberg shot a photograph of fires around Darwin and Melville Island, Australia, on August 5, 2013, while looking west across the Timor Sea from the International Space Station (ISS). She also took a photo looking straight down on the fires.
For more than a decade Earth-observing satellites have been scanning the surface of our planet searching for fires while scientists combine their space-based data to predict crucial fire behavior and therefore try to mitigate potential damages. In the western United States, California and Colorado, the 2013 wildfire season has started earlier than normal due to the favorable conditions for fire present in this area.
Water isn't the only thing pouring over Niagara Falls. Pollution from fires in Ontario, Canada is also making the one thousand mile trip, while being measured by NASA's Aqua satellite. One instrument that flies aboard two of NASA's satellites has provided two views of the pollution from the fires in Ontario.
Fires throughout Ontario are generating pollution that is showing up in data from NASA's Aura Satellite in the Great Lakes region. The fires have also forced thousands of residents to evacuate to other areas in Canada, according to CBC News. About 112 fires have ravaged 81,545 acres so far, said the province's minister of natural resources, Linda Jeffrey.
Fires raging in central Africa are generating a high amount of pollution that is showing up in data from NASA's Aura Satellite, with the ominous shape of a dark red butterfly in the skies over southern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and northern Angola.
Drought and the worst heat wave Russia has seen in 130 years have sparked a devastating outbreak of wildfires across the nation this summer, primarily in the country's western and central regions. According to wire service reports and Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry, as of Aug. 6, 2010, some 558 fires were burning.