Widespread fires speckled the mid-winter landscape of East African in late January, 2012. Most of the fires, which are marked as red “hot spots”, are primarily clustered in the west of this image, especially in the nations of South Sudan (north) and Uganda (south). A heavy cluster also can be seen burning in Ethiopia, while Somalia and Kenya remain nearly fire-free. The clustering of the fires as well as the time of the year suggest that these fires are most likely agricultural in origin, and were deliberately ignited to manage cropland or pasture.
From January to March, most of the land in this region comes under the influence of the dry northeasterly winds. During this time, rainfall is very light or almost non-existent. At this time, fire can be used to clear the drying residue which remains after crops have been harvested.
This true-color image was captured by Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite as it flew over East Africa on January 21, 2012.