On May 19, 2014 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite flew over Russia’s Irkutsk region and captured a true-color image of cloud and smoke. The image is centered at 63°N, 109°E, in Irkutsk Oblast. The Sakha (Yakutia) Republic lies to the east. Smoke and cloud are so think, however, that few features of the ground are discernible from the satellite view.
In the far northwest, skies are relatively clear, revealing white, snow covered Sayan Mountains. To the south and west, a wide bank of highly reflective white clouds covers the land. To the east of the cloudbank, some green peeks through, but is covered by heavy gray smoke plumes and thinner veils of swirling smoke. In the south of the image, the gray smoke appears to mix with the whiter clouds.
Dozens of fires have been burning in this region since April and most likely started as agricultural fires used to manage cropland in the springtime. A relatively dry, warm winter has given way to a hot, dry spring – making many parts of central Siberia ripe for wildfire.