Hundreds of fires speckled the green landscape across central Africa through May, 2014. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) captured this true-color image on May 27.
The image is centered in on the borderline between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (northeast) and Angola (south). The Congo lies to the northwest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Gabon can be seen in the far northwest corner. The small, roughly rectangular area is Cabinda Province, an enclave of Angola that shares no border with its mother country.
May is the dry season in this region, and is the time when agricultural burning becomes intense. Fire is a traditional tool of crop and pasture management, and is used to open new fields – often from forest – or to prepare older fields for planting. It can also be used to freshen pastures, and to drive game or pests from farmland. On a small scale, such agricultural burning can confer benefits, but large scale burning affects air quality, both nearby and often for hundreds of miles. Smoke is a strong respiratory irritant for livestock and for humans.