Throughout August and September, millions of acres across California were ablaze following an “unprecedented outburst of dry lightning in August 2020”. Exceptionally hot heatwaves across the Golden State exacerbated the situation, and as the wildfires begin to simmer down, NASA has begun assessing the damage. Satellite images from the space agency show large swathes of California with no vegetation left following the fires.
NASA used data from the Landsat 8 satellite to create a map which shows the extent of the damage.
Tan and brown areas reveal burnt areas, while the darkest of shades show the scars left by the fires.
NASA had to wait until September 26 to get a clear image of the landscape as too much smoke occupied the skies.
However, the images can now help land and forest managers create a suitable recovery plan.
Experts will also use the data to analyse any potential fallout from the fires, such as landslides.
Fire burning the ground makes it looser, making the prospect of a landslide more prominent.
NASA’s Ames Research Center scientist Christopher Potter said: “We needed a clear view of the land surface to make these measurements, and we were lucky enough to get one after so many smoky days.
“It was the first satellite image we could use to tell how severe the burn was across a broad area.
While the ongoing fires will eventually dwindle, researchers have warned that climate change will make them even worse in the future.
Mr Potter said: “It is rare that we get more than one large lightning-induced fire in a year in California; this year we had ten lightning complex fires.
“Some researchers think these lightning storms may be related to climate change.
“If global warming means more lightning storms like this in California, then we are in trouble.”