December 12, 2013
(3 Sept. 2012) --- Idaho fires are featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 32 crew member on the International Space Station. Taken with a short lens (45 mm), this west-looking photograph has a field of view covering much of the forested region of central Idaho. The dark areas are all wooded mountains—the Salmon River Mountains (left), Bitterroot Mountains (lower right) and Clearwater Mountains (right). All three areas experienced wildfires in September 2012—this image illustrates the situation early in the month. Smaller fire 'complexes" appear as tendrils of smoke near the sources (e.g. Halstead complex at left), and as major white smoke plumes from the Mustang fire complex in the densest forests (darkest green, center) of the Clearwater Mountains. This was the largest plume noted in the region with thick smoke blowing eastward over the Beaverhead Mountains at bottom. The linear shape of the smoke plumes gives a sense of the generally eastward smoke transport on this day in early September. The smoke distribution shows another kind of transport: at night, when winds are weak, cooling of the atmosphere near the ground causes drainage of cooled (denser) air down into the major valleys. Here the smoke can be seen flowing west down into the narrow Salmon and Lochsa River valleys (at a local time of 12:18:50 p.m.) -- in the opposite direction to the higher winds and the thick smoke masses. The bright yellow-tan areas at top left and top right contrasting with the mountains are grasslands of the Snake River in southern Idaho around Boise, and the Palouse region in western Idaho--SE Washington state. This latter area is known to ecologists as the Palouse Grasslands Ecoregion. Light green areas visible in the center of many of the valleys are agricultural crops including barley, alfalfa, and wheat. The image also shows several firsts of which Idaho can boast. The Snake River between Boise and the Palouse region has cut Hells Canyon (top), the deepest gorge in the U.S. at almost 2,436 meters (8,000 feet). The largest single wilderness area in the contiguous U.S., the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness occupies the wooded zones of the Salmon River Mountains and the Clearwater Mountains, i.e. most of the area shown in the middle of the image. Idaho's highest peak is Borah Peak (lower left) at 3,860 meters above sea level (12,662 feet ASL). The Continental Divide cuts through the bottom of the image—rivers on the eastern slopes of the Beaverhead Mountains drain to the Atlantic Ocean, whereas rivers in the rest of the area drain to the Pacific Ocean.
Topics: Environment, Lewis and Clark Expedition, Idaho, Geography of the United States, Disaster Accident, Beaverhead Mountains, Clearwater Mountains, Salmon-Challis National Forest, Palouse, Sawtooth National Forest, Wild and Scenic Rivers of the United States, Salmon River, Clearwater National Forest, Snake River, Hospitality Recreation