April 27, 2011 - Fires in central Chile

Fires in central Chile

The forests and grasslands of central Chile were ablaze with multiple fires on April 8, 2011 when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite passed overhead and captured this true-color image.

Near the center of the image, a cluster of red hotspots form a distant ring around the city of Temuco, which can be seen as an irregular gray smudge between two dark green lines which transect light green grassland. The capital city of Cautin Province, Temuco lies on the Cautin River, which can also be seen in the image, running from east to west.

The city of Temuco is surrounded by an environment typical of this region. Immediately around the city, the light green area marks grassland, which serves as pastureland for cattle as well as agriculture. This area produces many crops, including grains and fruits. The dark green areas mark forests, including plantations of conifers which are managed for agriculture as well as native forestland.

Wildfire is cyclical in Chile. The season typically begins in November, intensifies in January and nears completion by April. However, a dry winter or late rainy season may extend the fire season.

According to the National Forest Corporation (CONAF), wildfires in most of Chile are very rarely caused by natural agents, such as lightning storms or volcanic activity. The most common causes are escape of controlled forest or agricultural burns, or accidental ignition by humans. Arson also plays a role in a number of fires. The cause of the fires in the image is unknown, but given the widespread nature and the location, they are most likely predominantly agricultural in origin.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 4/8/2011
Resolutions: 1km ( B), 500m ( B), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC