Fires on St. Catherine’s Island (Coastal Georgia, US)

Despite the rain, recent thunderstorms have triggered a few fires in the area given the persistent dry conditions. The wildland fires on St. Catherine’s Island (Wikipedia), located between Savannah and Brunswick, are getting some media coverage (WJCL TV) and social media angst. The smoke plumes are visible from space, but a better picture can be had from the infrared sensors on the polar orbiting satellites. Here are the fire signatures detected from the NOAA “Sumoi” polar orbiter over the last 24 hours ending 7am …

Sumoi fire signatures; click to embiggen.

And here is a visible band view from the same satellite from yesterday, with the smoke plume visible …

These kinds of fires are an essential part of the coastal ecosystem. The fires create habitats for birds and animals (like the Red Cockaded Woodpecker – link goes to USFS) and in the long run reduce the overall fire danger by keeping fuel levels down. This becomes more of a problem where human encroachment puts our stuff in areas that have adapted, over thousands of years, to periodic burns. Over the last few decades there has been a concerted effort to try to balance letting them run their course and protecting human infrastructure. There are ongoing studies trying to figure out if we will get more fires as climate changes. We don’t really have a good answer to that yet (USGS) …

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