Satellite Images Shows What U.S., Canada Wildfires Look Like From Space

Satellite footage has shown how huge swathes of sky over North America are covered in smoke from ongoing forest fires across Canada and the western U.S.

The footage released by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows a timelapse of the Earth as seen from its GOES-17 satellite.

The timelapse shows that much of the U.S. and Canada are obscured by a blanket of smoke.

UPDATE: Numerous #wildfires across Canada and the western U.S. are spewing out so much #smoke that it now covers much of the sky in both nations, seen here from @NOAA's #GOES17🛰️ this afternoon. More than 90 large wildfires are actively burning across 12 states in the U.S.

— NOAA Satellites - Public Affairs (@NOAASatellitePA) August 2, 2021

There are currently around 90 large wildfires across the U.S. alone that have burned over 1.8 million acres of land across 12 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).

Over 22,000 firefighters and support personnel have been assigned to tackle the incidents.

In Monday's update the NIFC said a number of fires in Montana had been extremely active and several fires in California were very active.

GOES-17 is one of the U.S.' most advanced weather satellites launched as part of the four-satellite GOES-R program. It was launched on March 1, 2018, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard an Atlas V 541 rocket.

The satellite operates in a geostationary orbit, meaning that the speed of its orbit around the Earth matches the speed of the Earth's rotation.

As such, the satellite is always looking at the same part of the Earth approximately 22,300 miles high, allowing it to observe changes over time.

The satellites can be used to monitor smoke and dust, detect flash flood risks, track hurricanes, warn of tornadoes, and monitor energetic particles responsible for radiation hazards.

From January 1 to August 2 this year, the number of fires across the U.S. and acres burned have exceeded the number in the same period of 2020. There have been 38,014 fires that have burned 3,079,748 acres so far. Last year there were 32,231 fires and 2,149,283 acres burnt in the same period, according to NIFC data.

Some years are much more severe than others. In 2011, there were 46,390 fires and 6,111,896 acres burnt from January 1 to August 2.

On July 28, the U.S. welcomed a Boeing 737 firefighting aircraft that had been sent from Australia's New South Wales Rural Fire Service to help tackle the U.S. blazes.

Kim Christensen, deputy assistant director for operations for the USDA Forest Service, said in a statement at the time: "We greatly appreciate having this airtanker from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service assisting us."

Advice on preparing homes for wildfire can be found on the National Fire Protection Association's website.

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A home burns during the Dixie fire on July 24, 2021, in the Indian Falls neighborhood of unincorporated Plumas County, California. Wildfires are occurring in several states. JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images