The Funny River Fire in Alaska fails to make me giggle. A dry spring and beetle-killed trees created easy kindling for the blaze, which spread to over 192,000 acres since May 19th. With 760 people on the fire lines, it's finally getting under control.

Image credit and read more: NASA/Earth Observatory

While the visible light photographs are opaque with smoke, peeking down from space in infrared cuts through the smoke to provide a better idea of what's going on.


Fresh burns are dark brown, while the active fire area is orange. As of May 29th, the fire was 46% contained, with active fronts on both the western and eastern margins. Patches of brown vegetation around the fire could be old burn scars, or pockets of beetle-killed trees.

The opaque white clouds are pyrocumulonimbus clouds, formed when superheated air rises above an intense fire. They're small nightmares, thunderstorms that rain down hail and lightning below, while driving strong winds to fan the flames. Counterintuitively, the pyrocumulonimbus clouds are cooler than the smoke, the blue haze draping the landscape.


Image credit & read more: NASA/Earth Observatory

As the smoke rises into the higher atmosphere, it's swept hundreds of kilometers across the Gulf of Alaska. It is negatively impacting air quality for the Kenai Peninsula and south-central Alaska. Smoke impacted air quality as far away as Anchorage and Homer.


Check the Earth Observatory for the most recent satellite imagery. See more photos of the event on the crowdsourced fire-photos map.