13 September 2007

Tanami Desert flare-up

The fires in the Tanami Desert, some of which were associated with the western-most Tennant Creek fires noted previously have undergone a big flare-up today. Other of these fires were mentioned in the last national summary as likely to become more active and widespread.

The Terra satellite directly overflew the area at approximately 0120 UTC today (13 September 2007). An abundance of new hotspots were detected, as indicated by the purple stars in the NAFI image shown below.

The 250-m resolution 'true color' MODIS image is also shown below. The area of the fires is quite impressive on the image. The fire located about 150 km west of Tennant Creek shows the flare-up on the E and SE side of the rather large burnt area. A thick plume of smoke is seen rising from the area. The fire further to the west also has many active hotspots and a long plume of smoke extending from the fire.

The bright white patches within both smoke plumes are pyrocumulus clouds, that is cumulus clouds driven by the heat of the fire.

Several of the other fires noted on the NAFI map are also visible in the MODIS image. None appear as spectacularly in the image at this time.

A fire weather warning was issued by the Bureau and a fire ban until 5am on the 14th was issued by Bushfires NT was issued earlier in the day for the Alice Springs district. Fire weather conditions were extreme, with temperatures in the mid-30s, relative humidity running at about 20-25% at the time of the fires, with sustained winds of roughly 20-25 kts, with higher gusts.

Note: Image quality of the MODIS image has been degraded to make a manageable size picture.

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