NASA alarmism headline: ‘A World On Fire’

From NASA Goddard.

The world is on fire. Or so it appears in this image from NASA’s Worldview. The red points overlaid on the image designate those areas that by using thermal bands detect actively burning fires. Africa seems to have the most concentrated fires. This could be due to the fact that these are most likely agricultural fires. The location, widespread nature, and number of fires suggest that these fires were deliberately set to manage land. Farmers often use fire to return nutrients to the soil and to clear the ground of unwanted plants. While fire helps enhance crops and grasses for pasture, the fires also produce smoke that degrades air quality.

Elsewhere the fires, such as in North America are wildfires for the most part.  In South America, specifically Chile has had horrendous numbers of wildfires this year.  A study conducted by Montana State University found that: “Besides low humidity, high winds and extreme temperatures—some of the same factors contributing to fires raging across the United States—central Chile is experiencing a mega drought and large portions of its diverse native forests have been converted to more flammable tree plantations, the researchers said.”  More on this study can be found here:

However, in Brazil the fires are both wildfires and man-made fires set to clear crop fields of detritus from the last growing season. Fires are also commonly used during Brazil’s dry period to deforest land and clear it for raising cattle or other agricultural or extraction purposes. The problem with these fires is that they grow out of control quickly due to climate issues.  Hot, dry conditions coupled with wind drive fires far from their original intended burn area.  According to the Global Fire Watch site (between 8/15 and 8/22) shows: 30,964 fire alerts.

Australia is also where you tend to find large bushfires in its more remote areas. Hotter, drier summers in Australia will mean longer fire seasons – and urban sprawl into bushland is putting more people at risk for when those fires break out. For large areas in the north and west, bushfire season has been brought forward a whole two months to August – well into winter, which officially began 1 June.  According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (Bom), the January to July period 2018 was the warmest in NSW since 1910. As the climate continues to change and areas become hotter and drier, more and more extreme bushfires will break out across the entire Australian continent.

NASA’s Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) Worldview application provides the capability to interactively browse over 700 global, full-resolution satellite imagery layers and then download the underlying data. Many of the available imagery layers are updated within three hours of observation, essentially showing the entire Earth as it looks “right now. This satellite image was collected on August 22, 2018. Actively burning fires, detected by thermal bands, are shown as red points. Image Courtesy: NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS). Caption: Lynn Jenner with information from Global Fire WatchAustralian Bureau of Meteorology, and

To see the image on Worldview:



75 thoughts on “NASA alarmism headline: ‘A World On Fire’

  1. Australia, about those African fires: The particulate matter that causes rain in your region comes from Southern Africa. If you want to read about the project look for SAFARI 2000 which deliberately started veld fires and tracked where the smoke went.

  2. “The world is on fire” suggests that this is not normal, but there is nothing presented to show what is “normal”. Many, or most, of the reasons quoted seem to be normal annual practices, so why the alarmism?

    • I believe Rush Limbaugh would call it “spin”. You take a fact or event and only present one of its many cause/effect scenarios for the purposes of advancing a political or social agenda

      • The previous administration has had a profound effect on the mindset of NASA as a community.
        It will take some time to deprogram it. Think of this as the denial phase.

        • The rot at NASA began in the 1970’s with the
          Mission to Planet Earth.

          NASA should never have been approved to explore the earth. There were already existing departments for that. Otherwise the name should have been changes to NAEA.

    • “The world is on fire. Or so it appears in this image from NASA’s Worldview.”

      What alarmism? The first sentence is simply a description of what the image seems to suggest – thus the second sentence. The article is forthright about the cause of many of the fires.

      The program is a tool for professional fire fighters, managers and scientists. Yes, it’s a striking image, but this is a press release after all, showing what NASA satellites are capable of. It gives an overall impression of the areas on Earth where there are currently fires, and where they are at highest density. I don’t understand why this would be deemed alarmism.

      • Maybe the headline?
        Of course, they are after budget funding and click bait.
        Not that I’m cynical or born in a cabbage patch or anything like that…
        But with the spiffy web site, they could easily have filters to show what is NOT seasonally normal.
        Why not?

        • The headline is for a press release about a tool that shows fires. It’s short and excites curiosity. It’s not as if people are going to read it and think, OMG!
          Is the world really on fire? It doesn’t say, “Climate Change is Leading to a World on Fire.” I see your point, but I still think as far as alarmism goes, this is relatively innocuous.

          Why not? Well, first you’d have to know what “normal” is, and that’s no easy feat – how does one even define “normal”? But that’s not the point of the tool. The rationale is that it will help in land management, fire fighting, and scientific research. It’s the research that is aided by the tool that is necessary to discover what is “normal” or not.

  3. Earth Observatory has been running those fire animations for years. MOST of those African scrub and grassland fires have been going on for years and no net effect on the carbon cycle. No sooner has the CO2 been released in a fire than it is re-sequestered again as new plant growth. Twas ever thus.
    However permanent jungle clearing – chiefly in the Amazon and Borneo has an enormous effect on the carbon cycle.

    • Really??? So what do attribute the growing sinks to? In 1965 we produced a total of 12 BMT of co2, of that the sinks took care of 6 BMT. In 2015 despite deforestation and increasing ocean temperatures, the sink took in 19 BMT. Increased plant growth didn’t do that. Increased partial pressure didn’t do that. Not even combined could all that carbon be successfully sequestered by those to process.

      • The part of the planet that has land-plants and phytoplankton growing is much larger than the part that has been converted to barren ground. Think of all the green things growing bigger and faster, and more of them.
        There is a lot we don’t know. Search on this set:
        underwater Irish canyon is sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere

        • In 1998 the ppm/v increased by 2.93 . That’s was 1.5 ppm/v than we were capable of producing, if we produced it in a normal year, it would have been 18 BMT (billion metric tons) if nature produced it 9 BMT….. The official sinks have been calculated with increased plant absorption……. still way too much is going to some unexplained process. That doesn’t included what I consider missing. If you happen to look at the co2 record, it follows temperature, that is the only explanation for 1998. It would have required another world producing the same amount of co2 in the same space and time.

          • Could you be more articulate please? You are not making much sense! What were you trying to say in the first place?

          • I’m saying that
            1. co2 follows temperature.
            2. All atmospheric increase or decrease in yearly ppm//v over the last 60 years is not totally man made. It’s not a one off thing. Each and every year co2 follows temperature.
            The increased co2 in 1998 came from somewhere and you didn’t produce it. Nor is there an explanation for the missing co2 since 1998. I am certain that NOAA knows about increased uptake by plants. They are the people who reported it. NOAA is also the very same people are responsible for the total percentages of how much the entire earth, not the summer NH, are 26% land.. 24% oceans absorbs man made co2.
            3. The accounting of atmospheric co2 is and has been below the production levels except for 1998, which was a warm year. Even last year 3.05 ppm/v increase is somewhat less than what should than it should have been.
            4. All you can say over the last sixty years, is that there has been a warming trend. If we go into a colder period I think that total atmospheric co2 levels will decrease. And it certainly seems that way as the rate of increase in co2 ppm/v per year has slowed or stopped altogether despite ever increasing production of co2.
            5. Claiming some event or the other that is sinking or releasing co2 is like saying that it was hot here this year, that proves global warming via co2 or it was cold here this year, that proves global cooling. It doesn’t. It has to be significant … an increase in 9 BMT in 1998 is significant. All the increased production of co2 from 1998 onward that is not accounted for is significant. In other words, it’s like you stopped any additional co2 production after 1998.

            Perhaps it’s make more sense to you if these statements supported AGW theory.

        • More than that, 70% is ocean. Besides that there’s Antarctica, Greenland, desert lands, tundra, high altitudes, etc ad nauseum.

      • The growing sinks are likely due to photosynthesis not being a constant-rate process. With increased concentration of a crucial ingredient (i.e. CO2) the photosynthesis rate in every green organism on Earth has likely increased. So every plant and phytoplankton etc. on the planet is absorbing more CO2 than before – and using it to produce more leaves, stem, fruit etc. than before.

          • What “Official Numbers”? NOAA/NASA have produced some images and a press release – nothing more. “Official numbers” are more likely to come from the IPCC can you cite a source?
            Are you trying to say? – that a huge amount of CO2 has appeared that has not been accounted for?
            Please cite in detail all your sources.

          • It’s on the NOAA website. I quote only the numbers given. ( which change from time to time ). All the information as far as I know is true, reliable, up to date, and verifiable. And omg, in the scientific world, repeatable, something AGW cannot do. The scale of the yearly temperature anomaly fits very nicely on the the same scale as the yearly co2 ppm/v per year. …. I don’t see how you can’t understand that in 1998 2.93 ppm/v increased the atmospheric load. The most we could have produced to have that level that year was 1.5 ppm/v. No year was higher until 2017, and then only slightly Despite producing more and more co2 year after year. Perhaps that may be too hard of a concept for you to follow. And that’s also despite several of the claims of the hottest year ‘ever’. I don’t think so.
            Look it up yourself. I don’t need a link to some half witted climate scientist who only repeats what they been told to say or to only look for results that match the official story.
            CO2 follows temperature short, medium, long term, and really long term.

            Your setting policy that affects billions of lives, how society lives or doesn’t. What you don’t or can’t understand is that if AGW were right, I’d support AGW fully. At first I thought AGW was just flawed, but as the evidence mounts, it surely looks like fraud.

  4. Too bad they didn’t have such imagery back when the American Prairies burning (naturally) was an almost annual event.
    (Some of those grasses and plants depended on the fires to break open their seed pods.)

    • Yes, the grounds crew (accompanied by the local fire dept) burns the prairie grass yearly on the SIUE campus, which has over 3000 acres of various natural environments. That is in late winter, though.

  5. too funny….the more you zoom in…the smaller the red dots get….until they are so small you can barely see them
    ..and the more you zoom out….they bigger they get……oooooooooooooo scary!

    • Too true! I zoomed in on a dark red region in Africa… turns out it’s like one pixel from the image. Makes me wonder just how accurate it is? Maybe it’s just people driving around with their Hella high beams on! =)

    • Well, yes. At a resolution of 375m, with the dot in the middle of the pixel, none of them visible in a close-up view would be visible in a whole-Earth image. This image simply gives an impression of location and density of fires. The dots have to be small at high resolution so that it’s possible to see their arrangement and how it changes over time. A grid of dots represents contiguous fire. It’s quite interesting (and useful) to look at some of the large wildfires in the western U.S. and Canada and see how they change from day to day.

  6. I can’t seem to find any news coverage of current wildfires in South Africa. Must be, as posted, agricultural fires… although the NASA Worldview image shows a very large area of fire. Any chance the image is enhanced?

    • As a South African you should know that most fires around here are “protest action” related…

  7. There are two “fires” about 130km north from the port of Dampier, and from Barrow Island, off the north west coast of Western Australia and well out into the Indian Ocean.

    The possibility of them being bushfires does seem rather low.
    They are probably flares from gas platforms.

    I wonder how many of the other “fires” are actually due to industrial processes such as metal smelters and power stations.

  8. It appears that the big ol’ island east of Africa (Madagascar, right … hows my geography) would be a pretty crappy place to be now.

    Per NASA, Madagascar is burning down … the only habitable location is at the southern tip of the island.

  9. The graphics here are horrendous. In the scale presented the red dots are way out of scale. Once you go to NASA’s World View and zoom way in, things come more into something approaching the right scaling.

    For example – zoom into a inch =’s 5 km. Most fun over Brazil.

  10. View this data on ‘Worldview’ – looks much less alarming. All of that red is made up of standard sized data points that shrink when you zoom in. The center of the African firestorm has a small fire every 20km or so.

    • Can’t say that I disagree with you. And we did this at the same time – give or take 3 minutes. Cheers.

      • Chris,
        Actually, it isn’t. It is a place where most energy comes from burning wood. Cook food, burn wood. Purify water, burn wood. Keep animals away at night, burn wood. Night meeting, burn wood. Clear land for planting, burn it. The distance is right for village to village.

  11. Central Chile (Maule Region) may be having all sorts of weather events but the wild card there is the Indigenous (Mapuche) population setting things on fire. I saw one report that said more than 200 log trucks were burned, along with sawmills, houses, and cars. Sort of getting a headstart on South Africa. Factor arson into the calculation.

  12. This looks like a smear campaign. The pixel is smeared red if just one tiny fire is in that pixel. And depending on the grid size, a larger pixel will look ever so much more scary with a single acre sized fire in it.

  13. “The problem with these fires is that they grow out of control quickly due to climate issues.”

    If they don’t know the difference between climate and weather, how reliable is the rest of the assessment. And is weather ‘an issue’? Or is it just ‘the weather’?

    • Well of course drought is a result of weather, rain is a result of weather, cold snaps and heat waves are a result of weather and fires are a result of weather. Nothing to do with climate. In fact I’d go as far as saying that to talk of climate as anything less that several thousand years is complete made- up bullshit. 30 years is a joke of course. 100 years is no better. When it starts raining consistently in the Mediterranean during summer and dries up in winter for a number of years, I’ll consider that the climate might be changing.

    • Crispin, they don’t say “climate change” issues. It’s possible that the normal climate of a region and time of year affects fire behavior and use, and weather is secondary to that.

  14. A lot of fires are started by airborne lasers. It has been confirmed in California. NASA is a part of that program.

  15. I played around with the date slider on the link and the fires in California hardly show compared to the *natural* fires in BC. The smoke from the BC fires on the 18th extends clear to Hudson’s Bay and south to Iowa. It looks as if all of southern would have been under air pollution advisories just from the BC Smoke. (of course, even the *natural* fires are man’s fault, everything bad is always man’s fault. /sarc)

  16. Smoke from wildfires is making Calgary absolutely unlivable right now.

    If this is forestry mismanagement caused by more green falsehoods, then they belong in jail.

    It is definitely NOT due to “global warming”.

    I think it is time for a whole lot of greens to chain themselves to trees in front of the fire, to protest against air pollution.

  17. I’m sure I read somewhere that drought was more correlated to cooler temps and more rain to warmer temps. If this is the case then there is something going on which we may be missing. Could it be that the weather is actually cooling somewhat locally? Is there some kind of temperature lag thing going on which we are not noticing yet? I wonder if homogenizing all temps to give us an overall global temperature is not showing us the complete picture. Even though there have been lots of extreme heat in the N hem, there has also been record cold. The heat waves have failed to occur in Southern Australia for a number of years. Despite what the weather bureau has said, I have not seen temps over 38 degrees C for at least 6 years where I am. They were much more common in the 80’s and 90’s. I work in the horticulture industry and I’m very much in-tune with the daily, monthly and yearly temps. In fact the last three springs here have been very cool indeed. The snow fields in NSW have this year not seen so much snow for many years. Along with this, much of Australia is in drought. It would be interesting to know if there is any correlation between cool weather (winters) and fires in places like Sweden and Canada etc.
    Further, drought is nothing new in Australia. One of the reasons we are seeing such vigorous fires nowadays is the fact that we are getting more efficient at putting the smaller ones out. Fuel builds up and sooner or later (usually in periods of less rainfall) a fire gets away from you and burns more intensely than ever. It is unstoppable. Along with drought, fires are nothing new either. The seeds of many plant species will just not germinate without fire. It’s no coincidence that you can use ”smoke water” to germinate many hundreds of different plant species. Terrestrial orchids can lay dormant for years in the ground waiting for a fire to pass over them when they burst into flower and start breeding like crazy. This shows a long history of evolution in the presence of fire. So, constantly putting out fires has lead to an imbalance in our forests by allowing a build up of undergrowth which periodically would have naturally been cleaned up by the occasional spot fire. Of course we must protect human dwellings from fire but fire is not evil, it is a completely natural part of large sections of the global eco-system.

    • “I’m sure I read somewhere that drought was more correlated to cooler temps and more rain to warmer temps.” Hard to know just from this one sentence, but it’s possible that the correlation referred to global biomes. The equatorial regions harbor much of the world’s rainforest and monsoonal forest. Just an idea.

      “Of course we must protect human dwellings from fire but fire is not evil, it is a completely natural part of large sections of the global eco-system.”

      Agreed! Fire also plays a large role in maintenance of ecosystem boundaries. I fondly remember traveling the Giles Highway in Far North Queensland and seeing the sudden switch between rainforest and wet sclerophyll, a boundary that it largely controlled by fire. How I miss Australia!

  18. I am curious about what they are finding to burn in the in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert.

  19. Yeah, I saw that elsewhere.

    My location is identifiable from great distances, and there is no fire here or nearby. My cottage is rotting from the unrelenting humidity and moisture draining off the Niagara Escarpment above my back window,

  20. Not sure about the validity of this map but the most of East Anglia appears to be burning – I’m sure I’d have heard about it on the news if it was?

  21. I’m not quite sure why Europe hasn’t been mentioned. It’s been a record fire season over here with half of Sweden on fire and devastating fires in Greece and Portugal. Certainly in the case of Sweden we have never seen anything like it.

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