Social Media Claim

A picture of the Australian bushfires or a sunset from a plane?

A Facebook post from January 6, 2020 purports to show the Australian bushfires from above the clouds.

The Statement

An image that purports to show the Australian bushfires from above the clouds has been shared more than 3000 times on Facebook alongside a claim that it is “not a sunrise or sunset photo”.

The post from January 6, 2020 by a Facebook user features text with the image which includes the claim, “Australian fires as seen from above”.

The post has generated more than 290 reactions and more than 40 comments.

An early version of the photo was posted on July 26, 2016 with the caption, “36,000 feet, somewhere over Australia”.

The Analysis

AAP FactCheck examined the undated image in the Facebook post and found the earliest published example dated back to at least July 2016 after conducting a reverse image search.

The image showing a lava-like glow above the clouds was first posted to the US image sharing site Imgur. An early version was posted on July 26, 2016 by user by AdamE89 with the caption, “36,000 feet, somewhere over Australia”. Another user claimed the photo’s ‘lava’ glow had been enhanced with a saturation filter.

In August 2016, another Imgur user, Ahadrehman, posted the image with the caption, “Beautiful sunset, view from the airplane”, offering further clues as to the time of day and from where the photo was taken.

AAP FactCheck’s reverse image search yielded 281 results for the picture from July 2016 to December 2019. It has been extensively circulated on the internet with examples found on websites in the USA (photo 47), Russia, China and Iran to name a few countries.

There have also been examples found on websites and social media with internet domain addresses from Belarus, Czech Republic, Canada, Columbia, Ecuador, Greece, Slovakia, South Africa, Poland, Lithuania, Portugal, Ukraine, Indonesia, Hungary, Montenegro, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy and Vietnam.

AAP FactCheck even found examples of the picture being used as wall art in a rental property.

The Verdict

Based on this evidence, AAP FactCheck found the Facebook post showing a picture purporting to show the Australian bushfires from above to be false. A reverse image search showed the photo dated back to at least July 2016, well before the current Australian bushfires.

  • False - The primary claim of the content is factually inaccurate.

First published January 9, 2020, 16:34 AEDT