California wildfire smoke visible from space

It's early, strong start to what may be a long fire season in California.
By Brooks Hays   |   May 16, 2014 at 11:43 AM  |  Updated May 16, 2014 at 1:08 PM   |   Comments

SAN DIEGO, May 16 (UPI) -- A series of intense wildfires continue to burn in Southern California, and the smoke is visible from space.

Satellite imagery of the blazes and their giant plumes of smoke were captured earlier this week by NASA's Aqua spacecraft. The Earth-watching craft is outfitted with a high power camera-like instrument called MODIS -- short for "Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer." MODIS helps capture a full image of Earth's surface every one to two days.

The fires raging throughout San Diego started Wednesday and have continued to multiply and spread, fueled by strong winds, dry conditions and temperatures of more than 100 degrees.

Perhaps more frightening than faraway satellite imagery, a ground-level video captured a fire tornado springing forth from one of the blazes -- a rare occurrence when large fires meet extreme wind turbulence.

It's early, strong start to what may be a long fire season in California.

"As a native San Diegan, I have never seen the Santa Ana winds -- also called 'the devil winds' -- in the month of May," San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob told CNN.

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