On June 28, 2012, wildfires raged across the western United States. The Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado attracted the most attention after spreading into Colorado Springs and charring hundreds of homes, but large wildfires also burned throughout Utah, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, and Arizona.
A lack of winter snow cover
and ongoing drought primed vegetation in these states for ignition. But in recent weeks, another ingredient for extreme wildfire emerged: heat. High temperatures dry out vegetation and decrease the relative humidity,
making it easier for fires to ignite and spread.
The intensity and scope of the heat wave in the western United States is visible in this map of land surface temperature anomalies for June 17–24, 2012. Based on data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
(MODIS) on NASA’s Terra
satellite, the map depicts temperatures compared to the 2000–2011 average for the same eight day period in June.