An outbreak of wildfires across the southern United States is creating plumes of smoke so vast they can be detected by NASA’s orbiting satellites. The fires are spread across seven states including Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Carolinas. The thickest plumes are rising from the southern Appalachians, but all of the affected regions are visible from orbit.

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On the ground, the air pollution is so bad that authorities have warned residents in some areas to wear masks when they go outside. Normally, fires in the Southeast are fairly small and don’t produce much smoke, unlike the massive blazes seen in the American West. However, drought conditions have dried out the region’s vegetation, leaving considerably more fuel for the fires.

Related: NASA builds more advanced shelters to protect firefighters from wildfires

More than 5,000 firefighters and support staff are currently attempting to contain the blazes. In the case of the fires in Georgia, there are concerns the flames are starting to creep “dangerously close” to the metro Atlanta area. It’s suspected that the various fires are manmade rather than created by natural causes, although it’s not clear if all of the fires were set intentionally. Kentucky has already made two arson arrests, and Tennessee has followed suit.

Unfortunately, drought conditions are expected to continue through January at the very least. We may be seeing more of these fires throughout the fall and winter.

Via Discover

Images via Nasa Worldview