As snow begins to recede from the lands surrounding frozen Lake Baikal, fires ignite. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer aboard the Aqua satellite captured a true-color image of spring fires in Russia on April 4, 2014.
The fires cluster in the valley of the Angara River near the city of Irkutsk in the Irkutsk Oblast north of Lake Baikal. Additional fires speckle the mountainous regions south of Baikal in the Republic of Buryiata. Smoke plumes rise from many of the red hotspots and blow generally to the southeast, especially in Buryiata. Each red hotspot is an area where the thermal sensors on the instrument detected temperatures higher than background. When combined with typical smoke plumes, they indicate actively burning fires.
Early spring fires that burn for a short time over small areas are usually agricultural fires, which are deliberately set to manage cropland or pasture. Even managed fires can escape control, especially when fields are close to forests, and become damaging wildfires. A study based on MODIS measurements, published in 2006, found that Russia was responsible for 31 to 36 percent of the world’s agricultural fires – more than any other country. Such burning is discouraged by the government, but still occurs.