Fire’s Ebb and Flow Across the U.S.

By Tom Yulsman | May 4, 2013 11:57 am

A screenshot of an animation showing annual fire activity, along with changes in vegetation and snow, over the United States from July 2002 through July 2011. Click on the image to see the animation. (Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

After the Springs Fire in California’s Ventura County exploded to 28,000 acres on Friday, cooler temperatures overnight have helped firefighters begin to coral it. According to the L.A. Times, it is now 30 percent contained, and continued progress is expected.

Yesterday, I posted some images of the fire captured by satellites. They’re pretty dramatic, so have a look.

While searching for a followup, I found this animation from NASA, showing the ebb and flow of fire across the United States from 2002 to 2011. Composed of imagery from the Terra and Aqua satellites, it also shows snowpack and changes to vegetation as the seasons come and go.

Most prominent in the animation are the waves of fire that sweep across the heartland. These agricultural fires are mostly deliberately set. Less prominent are the wildfires in the West.

And here’s something I did not know: “North America is a region where fires are comparatively rare,” according to NASA. “North American fires make up just 2 percent of the world’s burned area each year.”

  • Anne Noise

    The fire owns the ebb and flow?



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


See More


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar