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Landsat Captures Images of Australian Blazes

As parts of the Northern Hemisphere deal with a prolonged cold snap, the heat of Australia’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere has provoked a steady stream of advisories and warnings across the island continent.

Heat and dry conditions are partially to blame for a series of destructive fires in Tasmania, a heavily forested island southeast of Australia. Around 195,000 hectares – nearly 482,000 acres – had burned as of Feb. 5, according to the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS).

Landsat imagery has captured numerous images that serve as snapshots in time as the bushfires burn.

The images above show the impact of the Gell River fire, which began in December. Landsat 8’s Operational Land Imager acquired the first on Nov. 17, 2018. Clouds cover Mt. Field National Park in the image, rendered using bands 7, 5, and 3. Bands 7 and 5 reflect light at near-infrared and shortwave infrared wavelengths, making them useful for highlighting the thermal energy left behind by burn scars. The second image was collected Jan. 20, 2019, and it shows a massive burn scar north of Lake Gordon. The fire has since traveled south and west, moving into the Mt. Field area near the end of January.

The second set of images uses the same band combination to depict the damage done by a more-recently ignited blaze, the Great Pine Tier fire in Tasmania’s Central Plateau. The first image was acquired on Jan. 13, 2019, three days before the TFS announced that lightning strikes had ignited dozens of fires across the island state. The second shot, from Jan. 29, 2019, shows the extent of the fire’s spread in the two-week period that followed. Bands 7 and 5 render active fires in a glowing orange, with smoke creating a bluish haze in the lower left-hand portion of the image. As of Feb. 7, the fire had consumed more than 55,000 hectares, or nearly 136,000 acres.

The third image pair shows the impact of the Riveaux Road fire in southern Tasmania. The first was captured on Nov. 17, 2018, and shows Southwest National Park in shades of green with fragments of brown, with similar patterns apparent in the Barrier Islands of Lake Pedder to the north. By Jan. 29, 2019, multiple fires had moved through the area, and active burning is visible.

The total area burned in 2019 has surpassed the 100,000 hectares burnt in Tasmania during a series of fires in 2016.

Rains on Feb. 7, 2019, offered some relief, but the TFS has urged residents to remain vigilant as crews work to extinguish the fires.

To see more imagery, including videos, Image of the Week videos and image comparison sliders, visit the EROS Image Galleries.

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