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NCC Imagery, Colorado Fires In July

Posted On: July 22, 2016 - By: Barbra Lashbrook

In early-to-mid July there were several fires that started in Colorado. The fires were either lightning or human caused. Three fires to note were the Beaver Creek Fire (northern Jackson County, CO), Cold Springs, Fire (western Boulder County, CO) and the Hayden Pass Fire (western Fremont County, CO). They were all active approximately around the same time-frame, between 9-12 July 2016. These fires were also seen together via satellite imagery during the night-time. The Near-Constant Contrast (NCC) satellite product has the ability to monitor wildfires and other atmospheric features during the night-time. In Figure 1 below, a NCC image shows all fires, denoted by the white circles and the adjacent city lights along the Colorado Front Range shown by the arrows, on 12 July 2016.


Figure 1: A NCC image of the wildfires occurring in Northern and Central Colorado at 0838Z on 12 July 2016. In the t0p-right portion of the image one can see the approximate phase of the moon on 12 July 2016, which at this moment in time was the first-quarter stage of the lunar cycle. It is important to note the night-time satellite imagery is dependent on the phase of the lunar cycle, that is, the satellite imagery can be better seen during the full-moon stage of the lunar cycle, and less seen during the new moon stage of the lunar cycle.

An animation link below highlights the evolution of the fires between 9-12 July 2016.

If one looks closely at the animation, the city lights appear to be seen in slightly different locations. The city lights move ever-so slightly from one day to the next. This is due to fact that the satellite imagery is not ‘terrain corrected’ in the data processing. In short, the imagery needs to be processed in a way to incorporate the altitude of where the cities are located. Once this processing is applied, the¬†city lights¬†will not move anymore, staying in the same location.

For further reference, here is the status of each of the fires described above, as of 22 July 2016.

Beaver Creek Fire: 25,491 acres burned, still active, 5% contained as of 22 July 2016.

Cold Springs Fire: 528 acres burned, no longer active, 100% contained as of 14 July 2016.

Hayden Pass Fire: 16,489 acres burned, still active, 55% contained as of 22 July 2016.

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