Photos: April 2020 Chernobyl forest fires as seen from space

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Earlier this month, a manmade wildfire broke out near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. NOAA-NASA’s Suomi NPP earth-observing satellite captured the following image on April 5 and alerted the global community to the raging fire that had spread over 250 acres in a forested area near the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

Chernobyl fire satellite photos
Courtesy: NASA

European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite mission also captured the fires and smoke, and mapped the resulting area of burned ground. See the changes between April 7 and April 12 below:

Chernobyl fire satellite photos
Courtesy: ESA

Fires around Chernobyl are a seasonal phenomenon, but have been worse than normal this year because a mild winter and spring had left the forest floor dry, ESA points out. It should be noted that the zone around the power plant is largely unpopulated, save for the 200 people who have refused to leave despite official orders.

Environmental activists have expressed concerns that should the blaze reach the defunct nuclear reactor and a storage site for radioactive waste, there could be a risk of exposure to increased radiation from the burning of contaminated forest and soil.

The following image by Sentinel-2 shows the burned area around Chernobyl on April 10:

Chernobyl fire satellite photos
Courtesy: ESA

Related: Overwhelming scale of Australia bushfires as seen from space

Here’s another view of the burned area through the smoke:

Chernobyl fire satellite photos
Courtesy: ESA

By April 14, the fires were mostly extinguished owing to heavy rains, however smoldering sections still remained. New fires erupted on April 16 and spread quickly due to high winds.

Then, on April 17, 2020, NASA’s Terra satellite captured the following image of the new fires breaking out:

Chernobyl fire satellite photos
Courtesy: NASA

The large, dark gray billowing clouds of smoke you can see rising from the fires in this image are traveling more than 757 km.

The range of the April 2020 Chernobyl fire from beginning to now has reached 50,000 acres which makes this wildfire the largest since the nuclear accident occurred on April 26, 1986.

Now see: Top maps and charts that explain the terrifying 2019-20 Australian bushfires