From entire towns engulfed by tsunamis to plumes of smoke from wildfires sweeping cities – astronauts and satellites have been capturing images of natural disasters from space for years.
The images help meteorologists who track storms, as well as relief organisations that need help in determining the impact of a natural disaster.
The National highlights 30 of the most striking images of natural disasters captured from space.
In the last few days, astronauts on the International Space Station have been posting photos of the volcano eruption on La Palma, one of the Spanish Canary Islands.
The Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted on September 19, and its red-hot lava has reached the Atlantic Ocean.
“The #LaPalma volcano in eruption. Set against the blackness of the surrounding Atlantic Ocean, the bright orange glow is even more impressive,” French Astronaut Thomas Pesquet tweeted on September 22 from the ISS, as he shared images of the volcano.
Astronauts have also been monitoring the wildfires burning across California and Nevada during this year’s fire season in the US.
The Caldor fire has been active for about 10 weeks and has reached Lake Tahoe, destroying some of the world’s oldest trees.
Nasa astronaut Megan McArthur, a native of California, shared images of the fires from space.
“California on Sunday from @Space_Station. Tough to see these views of my home state. My thoughts are with all those affected,” she tweeted on September 2.
In 2006, astronaut Jeff Williams spotted ash emerging from the Cleveland Volcano and reported the activity to the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
He captured images of a volcanic ash cloud going as high 6,000 metres above sea level.
Private satellite companies and space agencies often supply free images of natural disasters to help organisations deliver emergency relief.
“While Nasa researchers use satellite data to better understand the connections between climate and fires – and how fires affect the climate – they also use that data to develop tools for local agencies to track active fires and their smoke plumes, and aid in recovery efforts,” Nasa said on its website.
“These efforts are increasingly important since the intensity of hurricanes and other extreme weather events is expected to rise in a changing climate. Warmer ocean temperatures due to climate change feed a storm’s heat engine and can propel it to a Category 5.”
The European Space Agency’s satellites also track natural disasters, including floods, volcano eruptions, fires, cyclones and earthquakes.
“Volcanoes can cause widespread devastation and satellite data can be used to monitor and even predict seismic activity, optical imagery products can be used to map volcanic impact,” the agency has said on its website.
“Over 50,000 earthquakes occur every year on Earth. Satellite data provides a unique opportunity to measure fine changes in the earth surface, which are often precursors of an earthquake.”
The UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre also uses its Earth-observation satellites, such as DubaiSat-1, DubaiSat-1 and KhalifaSat, to supply agencies around the world images of any natural disasters.