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NASA satellites capture extreme climate events

Weather satellites give us a look at how powerful wildfires and hurricanes became in 2020.

Life changed in a lot of ways in 2020. That was mostly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that was not all. NASA caught snapshots of some of the climate-related events that impacted our lives last year as well.

Last January, a massive string of wildfires burned throughout Australia, leading to wildlife losses so large authorities could barely keep count. Hot and dry conditions during the Australian summer made it especially tough for crews to fight the fires. A NASA satellite captured the thick smoke as it moved across the country.

Credit: NASA
NOAA-NASA Suomi NPP satellite imagery of wildfires and smoke along the edge of Australia, Jan. 01, 2020.

The US also saw a record-breaking wildfire season, especially along the west coast. Dozens of people were killed and thousands lost their homes or businesses. The fire season peaked in September when NASA took a snapshot showing the smoke in a significantly darker color than the clouds in the sky.

Credit: NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS)
NASA's Terra satellite shows a smoke-covered California, Aug. 24, 2020.

It wasn't just fires -- the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season also set records, including the most named storms with 30. Thirteen of those became hurricanes and six were major (Category 3 or higher). NASA's most imposing satellite image of a storm in 2020 came on Aug. 26, just two hours after  Hurricane Laura made landfall on the Louisiana coastline. Laura's winds topped out at 150 MPH, and it reached 350 miles in diameter -- almost as long as the state of Louisiana at its longest.

Credit: NASA Earth Observatory
An image from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) onboard the NOAA-20 satellite of Hurricane Laura on August 27, 2020, about two hours after the storm made landfall.

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