The disaster has sent a noxious plume floating over the sea.

Remains of a building and new cars are left burned after an explosion at a warehouse in northeastern China's Tianjin municipality. (Ng Han Guan/AP)

From the ground, the deadly blast on Wednesday at a Chinese warehouse for hazardous chemicals looked like nuclear armageddon. From space, the disaster remains visible in the form of a nasty, brownish vapor ghosting across the Bohai Sea.

NASA’s Terra satellite picked up on the escaping cloud on Thursday, the same day Chinese President Xi Jinping swore to investigate the ground-shaking eruption in Tianjin. (The latest casualty count is more than 50 dead and hundreds in the hospital.) “The source of the smoke appears to be industrial fires associated with two massive explosions” at the Tianjin port, writes the space agency.

Later that afternoon, the Aqua satellite passed over the area and captured the cloud farther southeast. The trails of gray smoke in both images probably originated from wildfires, says NASA:

Japan’s Himawari-8 weather satellite also observed the movement of the mud-colored miasma:

The Chinese authorities are still trying to figure out what caused the blast. There is reportedly a “chemical odor” lingering in the air, and military materials specialists are working to remove hazardous substances like sodium cyanide from the scene, according to the BBC.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. New Yorkers riding the subway.
    Transportation

    The Great Divide in How Americans Commute to Work

    We are cleaving into two nations—one where daily life revolves around the car, and the other where the car is receding in favor of walking, biking, and transit.

  2. An archived Geocities family homepage showing a green cottage against a background of fall leaves.
    Life

    How Geocities Suburbanized the Internet

    In the 1990s, AOL and Netscape got Americans onto the web, but it was Geocities—with its suburban-style “neighborhoods”—that made them feel at home.

  3. A photo of a DART light rail train in Dallas, Texas.
    Transportation

    What Cities Are Getting Wrong About Public Transportation

    Cities could get more people walking, biking, and riding transit, according to a new report, if they just know where to look for improvement.

  4. A rendering of the Detroit People's Food Co-op
    Equity

    A Black-Led Food Co-op Grows in Detroit

    The Detroit People’s Food Co-op will control food production and dissemination to bring good food and wages to an underserved community.

  5. A man carrying a young boy on his shoulders amid the fall foliage of New York's Central Park.
    Life

    Which U.S. Cities Have the Most Families With Kids?

    Spoiler alert: It’s simply not the case that families with kids have disappeared from urban America.