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Astronaut sees destruction of new California wildfires from space

An image taken from the International Space Station shows smoke billowing across California; NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy shared the photograph on Oct. 1, 2020.
An image taken from the International Space Station shows smoke billowing across California; NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy shared the photograph on Oct. 1, 2020. (Image credit: NASA)

California continues to face devastating fires this year, which NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy has been monitoring from his outpost on the International Space Station.

Cassidy's six-month stay in orbit, which will end later this month, has been marked by countless images of West Coast blazes and smoke billowing across the country. He shared his three most recent photographs on Oct. 1 on Twitter.

Related: Climate fires and hurricanes collide in this shocking NASA satellite image

"It is hard to even imagine the destruction of the California fires," Cassidy wrote with the images. "Thinking of all the families and communities who are still dealing with this catastrophic state of emergency. #ThankYou to all of the fire fighters working around the clock to save as much as possible."

According to California's fire agency, more than 17,000 people are working to contain 24 major blazes burning as of Oct. 1. The 2020 fire season has been particularly severe and has killed 30 people, with more than 8,000 fires burning nearly 4 million acres (16,000 square kilometers), according to the agency.

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September and October are typically the worst months for fires in California. The fires are not directly caused by climate change, but the global phenomenon creates conditions that encourage more and more dramatic fires: higher temperatures, lower humidity and reduced snowpack from the previous winter.

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Meghan Bartels
SPACE.COM SENIOR WRITER — Meghan is a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.