May 5, 2011 - Fires in northern Ireland and Scotland

Fires in northern Ireland and Scotland

A large number of wildfires burned across parts of the Scottish Highlands and Ireland on May 3, 2011, following an exceptionally dry month. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellite passed over the region and captured this true-color image the same day.

The rainfall in April in parts of Northern Ireland was reported to be 1.5 inches – only two-thirds the average expected rainfall for the month. It was also reported to have been the warmest April since the 17th century.

In this image, red “hotspots” mark numerous fires while long gray smoke plumes rising from the fires indicate that the flames are being fanned by strong southeast winds in most of the region. At high resolution, some smoke plumes can be seen without an associated red “hot spot”, suggesting that the fires are either smoky but small, or possibly smoldering peat fires, either of which could reduce the surface thermal anomaly measurable by the instrument.

On May 3, United Press International (UPI) reported that scores of fires burned in Northern Ireland, Scotland and parts of Northern England, with at least 40 forest and heath fires in Scotland alone. A large area of scrub and gorse fires burned at Glengyle, at the northern end of Loch Katrine. The largest hotspot in northern Scotland marks this location. Gorse is a genus of spiny evergreen shrub well adapted to dry conditions, and is highly flammable.

The National Trust Ireland predicts that it may take years for the environment to recover from the damage caused by the recent fires, citing the loss of hundreds of acres of heather moorland as especially troubling. This unique and important habitat is found on the west coast of the region and is home to a wide variety of insects, reptiles, birds and mammals. It is estimated that it will take five to ten years for the plant cover to regenerate enough to sustain the insect life on which the food chain depends.

Image Facts
Satellite: Terra
Date Acquired: 5/2/2011
Resolutions: 1km ( B), 500m ( B), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC