04 December 2007

Gibson Desert Fires

As noted in the last national update, numerous fires have been burning in the Gibson Desert. Like many of the Tanami Desert fires earlier in the season, these fires are remote and not threatening any economic values. They are occurring primarily because of precipitation earlier in the season, which allowed for the normally sparse vegetation to become more continuous and fires to be sustained.

The satellite image was captured on 3 December 2007 from the MODIS instrument onboard NASA's Terra satellite. The image is a false colour “721” image, which highlights vegetations cover and, in particular burn scars. The sandy pink and light brown represent bare ground; the green is vegetation. The light green suggests somewhat sparse vegetation. The lakes in the image are actually dry salt lakes, the blue is due to the salt and sediments, not water. The red squares are hotspots detected during this overpass. The broader reddish brown regions are burn scars.

The northern burnt area is about 75 km from Lake Burnside; the southern area is about 85 km distant from Lake Buchanan. The lakes themselves are about 500 km ENE of Meekatharra. Careful examination of the hotspots reveals a bright pink glow. This is an indication of open flame in many cases. The northern fire has affected about 90 000 ha, the southern fire about 25 000 ha. Both are still burning. They appear to have started around the 29th or 30th of last month.

As seen in the map below, captured from NAFI at 1230 UTC on 4 December, these fires are part of a widespread outbreak in the Gibson Desert region and beyond. The fires in the picture above are near the centre of the below image. These fires continue to be active and as conditions are always hot at this time of year, they will likely continue for some time.

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