April 16, 2011 - Fires in Indochina

Fires in Indochina

On April 7, 2011 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite detected hundreds of fires burning in Indochina, suggesting that the winter fire season has not yet been quenched by spring rains. The dry season in the region runs from December to April, and is a time of sunny skies, scant rainfall, mild temperatures and low humidity. By June the tropical monsoon season begins, and normally continues until September, bringing with cloudy, rainy, hot and humid weather.

The dry season coincides with the end of the summer crops and the preparation of the land for planting. Fire is used to clear old fields, to return nutrients to the soils to ready the ground for planting, to clear weeds from pastureland so grasses will grow, and to clear forested land. During the dry season, the weather makes agricultural fires easy to star but difficult to control.

In this image, most of the fires appear to be clustered in the rugged forest regions, especially in Myanmar (Burma) and on the border between India (to the north) and Bangladesh (to the west). The fires in the eastern section of the image, however, appear to be burning in tan areas, which indicate dry vegetation. The location, widespread nature and number of fires suggest that these fires were deliberately set to manage land. The fires in the dark green area are likely to be used for clearing forest, while those in the tan areas are more likely to be used for cropland or pasture management.

In some areas, plumes of blue-gray smoke pour from red hotspots, blowing mostly to the southeast. In the eastern section of the image, smoke hangs over the flat valleys. While fire helps enhance crops and grasses for pasture, fire also produces smoke that degrades air quality in the region.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 4/7/2011
Resolutions: 1km ( B), 500m ( B), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC