The Pole Creek fire is hardly breaking news. As of October 20, 2012, authorities announced that the blaze was 100 percent contained. In early October, when we first published this image that the Terra satellite acquired in September, the fire was still burning wildly and sending up smoke plumes that shrouded the Three Sisters and the surrounding communities in a heavy layer of smoke.
A few weeks later, on October 5, a different instrument on a different satellite—the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite—acquired a false-color view of the fire (below). Rather than smoke billowing from an actively burning fire, the image features the burn scar left behind.
In ideal circumstances, we publish images of a fire while it is actively burning and also after the fact. But, in some cases, either because the satellites don’t acquire usable images or because we simply don’t have time to post them, we end up showing one view or the other.
There’s no shortage of fires we could show. (To get a sense of this, take a look at this map of global fire activity to see the constant presence of wildfires on our planet.) If we wanted, we could show only active fires with smoke, only burn scars, or any combination of the two and still have far more images than we could possibly post.
But which view do you prefer? And how late is too late? If a fire has been under control for day or weeks are you still interested in seeing the event or the scars that it left behind?
And what about other types of natural disasters like storms or volcanic eruptions? If a storm has already broken up, if a volcanic ash plume has dissipated, if a hurricane has no chance of making landfall…are you still interested in seeing it, or does it just feel like old news?