The spring fire season was well underway in southern Siberia on May 7, 2012, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite passed over the region and captured this true-color image.
Dozens of red hot spots, most accompanied by plumes of gray smoke, indicate active fires burning in the mountains south of Lake Baikal and along the border of Russia and Mongolia. This region is known as the Republic of Buryatia, an autonomous republic within the Russian Federation. To the far east in the image, a veil of smoke hangs over parts of Russia, Mongolia and China.
On May 4, Itar-Tass reported ten fires had engulfed over 80 hectares of taiga in Buryatia, and that the number of fires had doubled from just the day before. In this image, captured four days later, many more hot spots can be identified. According to Itar-Tass, over 300 people, including fifty paratroopers and 100 firemen had been deployed to fight the fires.
The fires are fanned by heavy winds and warm, dry conditions. Temperatures are expected to rise to 25°C (77°F) this week, and no rain is in the forecast. Most wildfires in this region are caused by human activity. They often begin as agricultural fires, but may also be inadvertently set when camping, picnicking or using forestland for recreation.