University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers are using satellite imagery to measure the extent of a massive smoke plume rising from a fire at a tire recycling facility in Watertown, Wisconsin.

A few hours after the fire began on Tuesday morning, NASA's Aqua satellite passed over the region and captured an image of the smoke plume. By that time, the plume of smoke extended 93 miles to the southeast, stretching across Milwaukee and over central Lake Michigan.

More than 637 square miles were covered by the plume, including 290 square miles of Lake Michigan.

The smoke from the Wisconsin tire fire could be seen from space. (Photo courtesy NASA)

Officials estimate as many as one million tires are still burning at the rural Wisconsin recycling facility, Watertown Tire Recyclers.

Roads were closed and more than 125 firefighters from 14 departments fought the blaze, which was contained early Tuesday afternoon.

But the fire is still burning and could smoulder for several days or a week, Jennifer Warmke, deputy director of the Dodge County Emergency Management Office, told the "Wisconsin State Journal" newspaper.

The recycling operation's owner had been warned by the state in a July 12 letter to reduce his enormous pile of tires or face possible charges said an official with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The image was collected by an instrument called MODIS, one of several sensors on the Aqua satellite. While the resolution, or level of detail, in MODIS imagery is coarse, the sensor provides daily coverage of very large areas.

This allows scientists to use MODIS to monitor atmospheric and lake-surface conditions across the entire Great Lakes region on a daily basis.

Researchers at the UW-Madison Environmental Remote Sensing Center processed the raw image data to enhance the visibility of the smoke plume. While the plume can easily be seen over land, it is more difficult to detect over the dark background of Lake Michigan's water.
Provided by the Environmental News Service.