Dozens of fires and heavy smoke spread across the land just as winter snow begins to melt in early May, 2011. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite flew across the region and captured this true-color image at 03:40 UTC on May 11, 2011.
A cluster of large red hotspots associated with long gray plumes of smoke sit in the mountains east of the frozen Lena River. The plumes are blowing southeastward, and coalesce in the Aldan River valley in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic. Near the Lena River, a scattering of red hotspots lie near the city of Yakutsk, which appears as a long gray mark on the west bank of the river.
On May 10, World News – Russian Opinion reported that over 30 fires in Yakutia since May 7. According to the Ministry of Emergency Situations, about 2,000 fires have broken out across Russia so far this year, with Siberia experiencing a dramatic rise in early fires over last year, due to a very warm spring.
The Lena and the Aldan Rivers appear bright white in the upper left (northwest) of this image, suggesting an unbroken sheet of ice covers the waters. The Lena is navigable during the summer months, and freezes so solidly in winter that it can be safely crossed by vehicles. But during long periods in the fall, when the river begins to freeze and in the spring, when break-up occurs, the waters become treacherous and unsafe to cross.
Near the city of Yakutsk, the white Lena appears to be broken by bits of blue in some locations. This may indicate that the thick ice which covers the Lena in winter is beginning to break up, another sign of rising temperatures.