Some wildfires will always be unavoidable. But nature, thankfully, recovers relatively quickly.
The past few years have brought some devastating wildfires to large parts of the American west.
But 30 years after Yellowstone’s most destructive fire ever, a record recovery shows how the land responds.
In 1988, 36% of the land in Yellowstone National Park — 793,880 acres — burned in one giant conflagration.
A combination of lightning strikes, human-caused fires, and parched conditions created the out-of-control blaze.
By time the cool, wet weather arrived in late autumn, tens of millions of trees were destroyed, along with innumerable plants.
41% of the burned area experienced crown fires, obliterating the forests there.
Yet natural regrowth and regeneration began immediately.
Progress is continuously monitored from space.
As imaged in false color by USGS-NASA Landsat satellites, burn scars (dark red) peaked in 1988/1989.
New vegetation thrives, but recovery remains ongoing.
Natural fires, unlike controlled burns, reach intensities required for proper regeneration of tree and plant communities.
Modern fire monitoring, through aerial and space-based reconnaissance, can determine a fire’s origin immediately.
A swift response, allowing fires to burn or controlling/extinguishing them, is essential in forest management.
Removing dead and hazardous fuels from forest floors and priority areas is the greatest (but underfunded) fire management preventative measure.
Mostly Mute Monday tells the scientific story of a space-related phenomenon in visuals, images, and no more than 200 words of text. Talk less; smile more.Ethan Siegel is the author of Beyond the Galaxy and Treknology. You can pre-order his third book, currently in development: the Encyclopaedia Cosmologica.