Category: David Hsu

Multiple Wildfires in Nuevo León

By Elijah Mt. Castle

Mexico is currently facing one of its worst forest fire seasons in decades. Over 1,000 people have been evacuated in Nuevo León, Mexico alone. Drought conditions and high winds have severely hindered firefighting efforts. The La Niña weather system has caused high winds with gusts up to 90kph. These high winds have grounded helicopter fire fighting units. This year alone, fire has destroyed over 29,000 hectares(~72,000 acre) of forest nationwide, the third largest loss of forest land in a decade. There are currently 75 active wildfires across Mexico. Pictured are the VNF detections in Nuevo León for March 17th -28th 2021. Also pictured is the EOG Nighttime Lights mosaic for March 27th 2021. The more pronounced the color is on the map, the longer fire has been burning there.

Weeks Long Fire Contained in Similipal National Park

By Elijah Mt. Castle

Similipal National Park has been aflame since February 24th 2021, and is now contained according to government officials. The associated tiger sanctuary also caught fire. The park, located in Odisha India, is an important biosphere for the country. Roughly one third of the forest has been destroyed or gutted for fire breaks. Fires have also been raging in surrounding areas for weeks. There have not been any reports of loss of life because of the fire, and most of the larger animals have moved to the inner-part of the preserve to escape the fire. Smaller animals and flora were not so lucky. Many reptiles and medicinal plants were killed in the fire. The exact cause of the fire is not known, but it is speculated to be man made. Many locals will burn away dead leaves to collect seeds and flowers used in alcohol and other products. The Odisha government is currently taking volunteers and paying locals to help keep the blaze contained. Pictured are the VNF detections for February 24th – March 12th 2021 in and around Similipal. The more pronounced the color is the longer the fire has been burning at that location. Also pictured are the EOG Nighttime Lights for March 6th.

Mt. Etna Erupts 4 Times in Four Days

by Elijah Mt. Castle

Mt. Etna, in the Sicilian province of Catania, has been intermediately erupting for four days now. The eruptions began on February 16th 2021. At this time the volcano is no danger to any of the surrounding villages and the lava is flowing into the uninhabited valley below the summit. As one of the most active volcanoes in the world the people of Catania are accustomed to frequent eruptions from the 3km peak. Volcanic ash and rocks have blanketed the surrounding towns and villages. As a precaution Catania’s airport was closed the 16th, but has since been opened. One of the mountain’s eruptions launched lava 700m into the air. More eruptions are expected in the coming days or weeks. Pictured are the VNF detections for February 17th to the 20th 2021, accompanied with EOG Nighttime lights for Feb 18th. The lava flow can be seen in Nighttime Lights, as well as the accompanying photograph. For supplementary information about Mt. Etna please see our post about the December 2020 eruption.

Power Outage in Texas Due to Extreme Weather

By Feng Chi, (David) Hsu

Download full resolution image here

Texas was hit by snow and freezing temperatures in mid-February 2021. Numerous areas experienced power outages as power plants and renewable energy sources shutdown and have been slow to restart. The outages can be detected as losses in satellite observed lighting, which show up as red in the image presented here from early morning on February 16. There are numerous power outage areas in Houston, while Dallas, Austin and San Antonio show smaller pockets of outage. Many of the gas flares in the Eagle Ford oil field are also shutdown because of the power outages.

Gravity Wave over United States

By Elijah Mt. Castle

The propagation of a gravity wave has been detected in cloud cover over the Eastern United States. A gravity wave is a wave generated in a fluid by the force of gravity or buoyancy attempting to restore equilibrium in the medium, i.e. the waves are caused by the fluid attempting to return to its resting place. When fluid is displaced from its equilibrium the fluid will move back and forth producing a wave. Gravity waves are responsible for many natural phenomena: ocean waves generated by wind; tsunamis; cloud patterns; and ocean tides. Pictured is an effect of a gravity wave on cloud cover over the United States. The rippled effect in the clouds could have been caused by a variety of interactions. This is a rare event to be captured so clearly by satellites.

Hawaiian Volcano Becomes Active Once More

By Elijah Mt. Castle

The Hawaiian volcano Kīlauea has become active. Kīlauea has been erupting since December 30th 2020. All lava flows are currently in the uninhabited lava lake and pose no threat. Kīlauea last erupted in 2018, when it erupted for 3 months straight. It was believed that a volcano the size of Kīlauea would only stop erupting when it was out of magma. However, the 2018 eruption only used a third of the available magma in the chamber. It was believed the volcano would remain dormant for much longer than it has. Chemical analysis of the lava shows it is not a new production of lava, but rather the remnants of the 2018 eruption. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is monitoring the eruption for new information and any risk it may pose. Pictured are the VNF detections for January 29th-31st 2021 for the volcano. Also pictured is the EOG Nighttime Lights for January 31st 2021, where the volcano can clearly be seen.

Country Wide Power Outage in Pakistan

By Elijah Mt. Castle and Feng Chi, Hsu

Pakistan’s national power grid experienced a blackout lasting 18 hours in most areas. The power failure was caused by “an engineering fault” in southern Pakistan. The fault engaged safety systems across the grid and shut down the power plants across the country. The blackout left millions of people in the dark. Airports were disrupted and major cities were left in the dark. Power has since been restored. No major accidents were reported. In 2018 Pakistan’s grid was partially disrupted for more than nine hours. A major power outage also occurred in 2015 a major power line broke down which knocked out power for around 80 percent of Pakistan, allegedly the outage in 2015 was caused by rebel groups. Pictured are the EOG nighttime lights for January 8th and 9th.

Mount Etna Erupts

By Elijah Mt. Castle

The Sicilian volcano of Etna erupted on Dec 13th in the night. Etna is the most active volcano in Europe. The eruption does not threaten the surrounding city of Catania. The eruption produced a jet of lava an estimated 100m into the air and an ash plume of approximately 5km in height. Mount Etna has been designated a Decade Volcano by the United Nations. The Decade Volcanoes are 16 volcanoes that are heavily monitored since they have historically deadly/damaging eruptions and are in close proximity to populated areas. In 1669 Mount Etna’s most destructive eruption destroyed 10 villages and flowed around the walls of Catania and into the harbor, the lava then breached the walls and destroyed several buildings. Etna is also a World Heritage Site. In Greek Mythology Zeus, the king of the gods, trapped the giant serpent Typhon beneath the mountain. The forge of the gods is also said to be beneath the mountain. Pictured are the VNF detections for Dec 12-13th, as well as the Nighttime lights for Dec 13th.

A Million Hectares Burned in Bolivia

By Elijah Mt. Castle

Fire season has been devastating across the world. Bolivia has reported that 1.4 million hectares of land have been burned from forest fires this year. As of October 8th there are 57 active wildfires in the country. Bolivian officials have opened over 450 cases against individuals accused of starting various fires. 20 of these cases are criminal charges. This is the first time in Bolivian history that people have been sentenced for wildfire. The various wildfires have begun encroaching on National parks in the area that are difficult to access. Parts of Bolivia are experiencing a drought that is providing dry fuel for the fires and hampering suppression. Lax environmental policies have not helped the areas affected. Pictured are the VNF detections for the month of October 2020. The more pronounced the color the longer the fire has been burning.