Australias largest city of Sydney was clouded with smoke when more than
70 wildfires raged across the state of New South Wales. These images
were captured on the morning of December 30, 2001, by the Multi-angle
Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument aboard NASAs Terra
spacecraft. The left-hand image is from the instruments 26-degree
forward-viewing camera, and the right-hand image is from the 60-degree
forward-viewing camera. The vast extent of smoke from numerous fires is
visible, particularly in the more oblique view. Sydney is located just
above image center.
Dubbed the black Christmas fires, the blazes destroyed more than
150 homes and blackened over 5000 square kilometers (about 1.24 million
acres) of farmland and wilderness between December 23, 2001 and January
3, 2002. Many of the fires are believed to have been caused by
arsonists, with only one fire linked to natural causes. The fires were
aggravated by gusty winds and hot dry weather conditions. Approximately
20,000 people have worked to contain the blazes. No people have lost
their lives or been seriously injured. Nevertheless, the fires are
considered to be the most prolonged and destructive of any in Australia
since the Ash Wednesday conflagration of 1983 that claimed 72 lives.
The images represent an area 322 kilometers x 374 kilometers.