Australia’s raging wildfires are so bad that satellites thousands of miles above Earth can easily spot their flames and smoke from space.
The fires likely started naturally, though experts think human-caused climate disruption has exacerbated hot, arid conditions that fuel the growth of such blazes.
Current estimates suggest eastern Australia’s bushfire crisis has scorched more than 14 million acres of land, killed about half a billion animals, and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
The photo above – which shows plumes of smoke roughly half the area of Europe darkening skies as far as New Zealand in a yellow haze – was taken on Thursday by the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Himawari-8 satellite.
Daytime satellite views of the ground are equally if not more dramatic. The European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellite took this image of growing bushfires while passing over Bateman Bay on New Year’s Eve.
So far the bushfires have chewed through more than twice the area that burned in Amazon’s rainforests during 2019.
At least 17 have gone missing in the fires, eight have died, and hundreds of thousands have evacuated. Firefighters are working to curtail the disaster, though it may burn until cooler fall temperatures arrive in the Southern Hemisphere.