May 4, 2011 - Northcentral Australia

Northcentral Australia

On April 24, 2011, the autumn landscape of northcentral Australia was dotted with dozens of fires, marking the start of the annual bushfire season in this region. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image on the same day.

Bushfires in Australia can occur during any time of the year, but during the “bushfire season” the frequency and the severity of the fires are markedly increased. In northern Australia, bushfires normally occur during the dry season, which runs from April to September.

On April 20 it was reported that Bushfire NT, under the Northwestern Territory Government warned that the Territory faces the biggest bushfire season in years, with huge areas of Central Australia expected to experience “intense” grass fires as the weather becomes dry. Record rainfall during the wet season has resulted in large amounts of grass growth, meaning that there is plenty of fuel for bushfires this year.

Central Australia normally experiences low rainfall, which results in little vegetative growth and low fuel load, so it experiences very few severe brush fires in a normal year. However, when heavy rains come to the region, as they have over the past several months, the vegetation responds with luxuriant growth. It has been reported that parts of the Territory that haven’t had substantial vegetative fuel on them for five to seven years now have large stands of waist-high grass. As this grass dries, fire risk will escalate sharply.

To try to reduce severity of potential wild fires, Bushfire NT will conduct prescribed burning in rural areas. Some of the fires in this image, particularly in the normally arid areas near the white salt flats, may well be prescribed burns.

Image Facts
Satellite: Terra
Date Acquired: 4/24/2011
Resolutions: 1km ( B), 500m ( B), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC