A new image unveiled by NASA on Thursday depicts “the world on fire.”
Captured on August 22 by the space agency’s Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS), which compiles data from a large number of Earth-observing satellites such as Aqua and Suomi NPP, the photo was released on NASA’s Worldview application and shows every fire burning on the planet right now.
Each of the countless red points overlaid on the image below represents an actively burning fire, as detected by NASA’s thermal bands. While some of these blazes are agricultural fires and controlled burns — used to clear crop fields of detritus and stimulate the pasture growth to support livestock — others are wildfires that have spread out of control, reports CNET.
The Worldview image, stitched together from full-resolution satellite imagery layers combined with current data, updates itself within three hours of observation, showing the whole planet as it looks “right now,” explains the space agency.
Of all the continents, Africa seems to be the most affected by raging fires and appears to be the “reddest” on the Worldview fire map. However, NASA points out that most of these red points are agricultural fires.
“The location, widespread nature, and number of fires suggest that these fires were deliberately set to manage land,” state agency officials. “Farmers often use fire to return nutrients to the soil and to clear the ground of unwanted plants.”
In contrast, the majority of blazes currently burning in North America and South America are wildfires, data from the space agency shows. For instance, South America — and Chile in particular — has experienced “horrendous numbers of wildfires” in 2018, states NASA. The agency cites a new study published on Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, which reports that the Chilean wildfires ravaging the country since the beginning of the year are being fed by a massive drought, which turns “its diverse native forests” into “more flammable tree plantations.”
Meanwhile, Brazil is also dealing with wildfires, in addition to planned agricultural fires, that have spread out of control “due to climate issues.”
“Hot, dry conditions coupled with wind drive fires far from their original intended burn area,” explains NASA, revealing that the Global Fire Watch site reported 30,964 fire alerts in Brazil between August 15 and 22.
As you might expect, Australia also has a large concentration of sizeable bushfires in the remote areas of the continent. This is by no means surprising, considering that 2018, specifically January through July, has produced the warmest period in the history of New South Wales since 1910.
Rising temperatures and an increasingly drier climate are bound to prolong the Australian fire seasons even more, according to the space agency.
“As the climate continues to change and areas become hotter and drier, more and more extreme bushfires will break out across the entire Australian continent,” state NASA officials.