On May 9, 2000, the Landsat 7 satellite acquired an image of the area around Los Alamos, New Mexico. The Landsat 7 satellite acquired this image from 427 miles in space through its sensor called the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+). Evident within the imagery is a view of the ongoing Cerro Grande fire near the town of Los Alamos and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Combining the high-resolution (30 meters per pixel in this scene) imaging capacity of ETM+ with its multi-spectral capabilities allows scientists to penetrate the smoke plume and see the structure of the fire on the surface. Notice the high-level of detail in the infrared image (bottom), in which burn scars are clearly distinguished from the hotter smoldering and flaming parts of the fire. Within this image pair several features are clearly visible, including the Cerro Grande fire and smoke plume, the town of Los Alamos, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and associated property, and Cerro Grande peak.
Combining ETM+ channels 7, 4, and 2 (one visible and two infrared channels) results in a false color image where vegetation appears as bright to dark green (bottom image). Forested areas are generally dark green while herbaceous vegetation is light green. Rangeland or more open areas appear pink to light purple. Areas with extensive pavement or urban development appear light blue or white to purple. Less densely-developed residential areas appear light green and golf courses are very bright green. The areas recently burned appear black. Dark red to bright red patches, or linear features within the burned area, are the hottest and possibly actively burning areas of the fire. The fire is spreading downslope and the front of the fire is readily detectable about 2 kilometers to the west and south of Los Alamos.
Combining ETM+ channels 3, 2, and 1 provides a true-color image of the greater Los Alamos region (top image). Vegetation is generally dark to medium green. Forested areas are very dark green while herbaceous vegetation is medium green. Rangeland or more open areas appear as tan or light brown. Areas with extensive pavement or urban development appear white to light green. Less densely-developed residential areas appear medium green and golf courses are medium green. The fires and areas recently burned are obscured by smoke plumes which are white to light blue.
Image by Rob Simmon, Earth Observatory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Data courtesy Randy McKinley, EROS Data Center (EDC).