Dozens of wildfires burned across central Russia while a pall of gray smoke hung over the region, in mid-April, 2012. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image on April 14, 2012 at 7:30 UTC (2:40 p.m. Novosibirsk Time).
Most of the fires appear to be burning in agricultural land west of the still-frozen Novosibirsk Reservoir, which is found near the center of the image and stretches in a northeast to southwest direction. The city of Novosibirsk can be seen just north of the reservoir, as a large gray smudge on the banks of the winding Ob River. In high resolution, the fires can be seen to lie primarily in brown areas, and on the forest edge, with few fires within the forests. This pattern is typical of agricultural burning. When the land is dry and wind is high, such fires easily escape and become out of control, or "wild".
On April 15, RIA Novosti reported that seventy fires were actively burning, affecting 18,687 hectares (46,177 acres) of land. They also reported that the Emergency Ministry’s regional center stated that twenty four of these fires burning on 9,307 hectares had been contained. Wildfires are not uncommon here, they usually occur in the dry, hot summers and in the fall, when lack of rainfall and crop senescence turn field and forest tinder-dry. However, the winter of 2011-2012 was exceptionally dry – so dry that the in March the Ob State Basin Department of Waterways and Navigation reported that there is only 50-70% of the snow required for normal run-off into the Ob. This low winter snowfall has also let the vegetation dry, raising the risk of spring fires.
In 2010, a team of scientists traveled from Goddard Space Flight Center to this region of Siberia, teaming with Russian scientists from the Sukachev Forest Institute to studying the forest biomass in the area, include fire-return data, in the forests north of Novosibirsk. Several fires appear to be burning in or near that study area, in the northeastern section of this image. To learn more of this region and the scientific expedition, a blog of the event can be access at http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/blogs/fromthefield/2010/08/10/wild-west-siberia-2010-introduction/