The just-released image is one of the several captured of the Thomas Fire, many taken by satellites that launched from the Santa Barbara County installation.
The Thomas Fire sparked Dec. 4 in Ventura County and quickly exploded to become fourth-largest blaze in California’s recent history, burning into Santa Barbara County and reaching 252,500 acres Friday.
On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released the first image captured by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument aboard the Joint Polar Satellite System, dubbed JPSS-1.
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A Delta II rocket carrying the satellite blasted off Nov. 18 from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County.
Now renamed NOAA-20, the satellite’s five instruments, including VIIRS, have undergone a serious of activation and checkouts before the craft can be declared fully operational near its three-month anniversary of circling Earth.
During a pre-launch press conference last month at Vandenberg AFB for the new weather satellite, a Cal Fire representative spoke about how satellite data assists firefighting commanders.
“As an end user of all the products that these people make, we base almost all of our decisions, as far as strategically and operationally, on the weather,” said Jana Luis, division chief of predictive services at the CalFire Sacramento headquarters. “So having current and accurate weather is huge to us.”
Fire commanders use satellite data in daily briefings, or even more often, and consider it when deciding whether to boost staffing due to a weather event, such high winds or extremely hot temperatures.
Her comments came approximately a month after the Oct. 8 fires that sparked in Northern California and three weeks before the Thomas Fire started burning in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
For the October blaze, fire commanders had a couple of days of notice about the historical weather event, boosting staffing essentially in the entire state.
Once operational, the NOAA-20 satellite is expected to improve weather forecasts and other data compared to older craft.