It appears that Canada is in for a rather long and arduous wildfire season. As of this moment, there are hundreds of fires raging in Alberta, BC, and the Northwest Territories. A stunning satellite image shows just how much of that smoke is darkening skies across the US.

As of June 29, the Canadian government says there are 168 uncontrolled fires and 273 controlled fires burning somewhere in the country. The unusually early start to the wildfire season has been attributed to warm temperatures, parched forests, lightning, and strong winds. The smoke has gotten so bad in some areas that health officials have had to issue health warnings. Some 1,300 people have already been evacuated.

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On June 29, a sharp trough in the jet stream delivered a veritable river of smoke southwards into the United States, darkening skies over much of Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa.

The MODIS camera aboard NASA’s Terra Satellite captured this dramatic image; the red dots represent fires, and the dark green patches are the forests. A higher resolution image can be found here.

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Here’s a close-up of that highlighted rectangular area at top left:

This area, just north of the Alberta Athabasca Oil Sands, is producing some of thickest clusters of smoke.

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[ NASA Earth Observatory ]

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.