California Wildfires Recorded by NASA Thermal Radiometer Aboard the Space Station

ECOSTRESS image of California wildfires and heat - Photo by NASA-JPL

As wildfires and high temperatures consume California, NASA’s Ecosystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station, or ECOSTRESS, tracks the heat wave from low Earth orbit.

ECOSTRESS works by measuring the temperature of plants heating up as they run out of water and so, it can also measure and track heat-related phenomena like heat waves, wildfires, and volcanoes.

When the space station passed over Los Angeles on Aug. 14,  ECOSTRESS was able to capture an image of the land surface temperatures across the county, which has been home to roughly 10 million people. Land surface temperature is the temperature of the ground rather than the air above it.

In the first image, ECOSTRESS measured a temperature range of about 70-125 degrees Fahrenheit, with the coolest being at the coasts and mountains. The highest surface temperatures, in dark red, were found northwest of downtown Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley. 

The instrument also captured the Ranch fire, seen in the center of the image, as it burned. Land surface temperatures there reached over 125 degrees Fahrenheit, with a peak of 128.3 degrees Fahrenheit between the cities of Van Nuys and Encino.

Read more here.