Thick pall of smoke from wildfires in western New Mexico seen by NASA's Aqua satellite.
Wildfire season is in full swing in the southwestern region of the United States. The image above shows the Whitewater-Baldy Fire Complex, a large blaze burning in a mountainous part of Gila National Forest in western New Mexico. The rapidly expanding fire, which started with a lightning strike, had burned more than 10,000 acres (16 square miles) by May 24, 2012. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired the image at 2:40 p.m. local time (20:40 UTC) on May 23, 2012. Desert grasslands and scrub forests (tan) dominate the lower elevations at Gila, but at higher elevations coniferous forests (green) full of white fir, blue spruce, and Douglas fir thrive. The amount of smoke the fire released increased as it encountered the coniferous forests at high elevations. When MODIS captured this image, the fire was burning through a den...