Ferocious bushfires have been sweeping across Australia since September, fuelled by record-breaking temperatures, drought and wind. The country has always experienced fires, but this season has been horrific. A staggering 10 million hectares of land have been burned, at least 24 people have been killed and it has been reported that almost half a billion animals have perished. The Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission carries a sea and land surface temperature radiometer instrument that can record fire hotspots. This instrument works like a thermometer in the sky, measuring thermal infrared radiation to take the temperature of Earth’s land surfaces. The instrument’s two dedicated fire channels are used to compile the World Fire Atlas.
The animation here shows how the number of fires increased between October 2019 and January 2020. The measurements were taken by the Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite at night only, and since the spatial resolution is limited to 1 km, the animation, as shocking as it is, actually underestimates the number of fires.
Read more: Australia: like a furnace