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Image captured by ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano during his Beyond mission on the International Space Station. Luca captioned this image: Australia fires: lives, hopes, dreams in ashes.
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Environment

Australia’s Bushfire Smoke Will Do a ‘Full Circuit’ Around the Earth, NASA Says


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The smoke produced from Australia’s bushfires is so catastrophic and substantial that it is expected to complete “at least one full circuit” around the globe, United States space agency NASA revealed. 

NASA explained the raging bushfires are so intense they are producing “unusually large” fire-generated thunderstorms — which has sent smoke spiraling into the lower stratosphere, around 15 kilometers above sea level.

After the smoke enters the stratosphere, NASA explained, it is able to roam thousands of kilometers and “affect atmospheric conditions globally.” 

The amount of smoke produced from the current bushfires, NASA added, is akin to the “largest values ever recorded.” 

The space agency uses satellites with ultraviolet sensors to follow and examine the movement of smoke across the earth. 

"The smoke is expected to make at least one full circuit around the globe, returning once again to the skies over Australia," NASA said. "Over the past week, NASA satellites have observed an extraordinary amount of smoke injected into the atmosphere from the Australian fires and its subsequent eastward dispersal."

The long-term effects of the traveling smoke — mainly whether it heats or cools the atmosphere — remains heavily examined.

Australian bushfire smoke has already reached New Zealand and South America. 

In New Zealand, Australia’s neighbor to the east, the smoke has caused severe air quality issues and turned the nation’s usually white, snow-covered glaciers a disturbing black and red hue. Scientists fear the lodged dust particles will reduce the glacier’s ability to reflect sunlight, in turn, causing them to melt faster. 

Professor Andrew Mackintosh, the head of the school of earth, atmosphere, and environment at Monash University, told the Guardian Australia he estimates the dust and smoke could increase New Zealand’s 2020 glacier melt season by up to 30%.

“It is quite common for dust to be transported to New Zealand glaciers, but I would say that the amount of transport right now is pretty phenomenal — I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it,” Mackintosh said. “It is concerning to me to see so much material being deposited on the glaciers.”

Over 100 bushfires continue to burn throughout the Australian states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria. 

The two states, thankfully, received some much-needed rain Thursday. The rain, however, is not enough to fully extinguish existing fires, but, according to the NSW Rural Fire Service Twitter account, “will certainly go a long way toward containment.”