8 December 2020
Landslide potential this winter? Satellite images of the wildfire areas of western USA
The 2020 wildfire season in the western part of the USA has burnt over 33,000 square kilometres of land, killing at least 37 people. These fires, which have been associated with record-breaking heat, have had a devastating effect. In early October I posted some satellite imagery, collated by loyal reader Ken, showing the extent of the burnt areas. This post provides an update.
Ken has now undertaken the huge task of creating a mosaic of the images, derived from the Sentinel-2 satellites, and then collating these into a video that he has posted to Youtube:-
For each area the video provides an overview of the fires (which appear a light brown in these false colour images) and then provides a detailed view of the largest of them. This, for example, is the Archie Creek Fire:-
The scale of the area that has been left vulnerable to landslides from these fires is staggering. In 2018, California suffered extremely damaging mudslides in this situation; this winter the vulnerable area is much larger. Efforts are underway to assess the hazard. The Weather Channel has a good article outlining the perils that could lie ahead.
Of course the way that this pans out will depend heavily on the rainfall pattern this winter – the La Nina conditions might for example reduce rainfall in parts of California, but leader to wetter conditions in the northern part of the fire burnt area.
Many thanks to Ken for the many hours of work that have gone into compiling this information.