On 25 May 2016, the Sentinel-2A satellite captured these images of smoke and fires raging north of the Athabasca River near Fort McMurray in Canada’s Alberta province.
The image with the overall green colouring was created using the shortwave infrared bands from Sentinel-2’s instrument, and allow us to clearly see the fires on the ground (in bright orange). These bands also allow us to see through smoke – but not clouds.
The image with the blue and red colouring was created using the visible and near-infrared bands from the same acquisition, and shows smoke (in light blue).
The exact cause of the wildfires has not been determined, but unseasonably hot and dry weather has contributed to their rapid growth.
Satellites from several space agencies across the globe have imaged the fires, including the Sentinel-2A and recently launched Sentinel-3A satellites for Europe’s Copernicus programme.