September 9, 2012 - Fires and smoke in central South America

Fires and smoke in central South America

Hundreds of fires burned throughout central South America, sending a blanket of smoke across the region. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) acquired this true-color image on September 6, 2012. The countries captured in this image are Bolivia (upper left), Brazil (upper right), Paraguay, and Argentina (lower left).

The fire season in South America is generally considered to be from July to October, and coincides with agricultural burning. Unfortunately, in hot, dry weather, agricultural fires can easily escape control, creating wildfires which can do considerable damage. In times of drought, which the region is currently experiencing, and in dry, hot weather, conditions become ripe for devastating fires.

On September 8, the Latin America Herald-Tribune reported that fires set to clear land for crops or pasture, but which got out of control, had burned more than 2 million hectares (5 million acres) in the Amazon region. They also reported that bureau of land and forest management statistics stated that the number of individual fires fell from more than 35,300 on September 1-2, to 34,700 on September 3, after a cold front arrived in Bolivia with rain and thunderstorms in Pando, Beni and Santa Cruz, the provinces most affected by the fires. Despite the respite of the rains, conditions remain favorable for ignition of new fires and the expansion of the current fires.

Smoke, too, is a danger in such conditions. In this image, plumes of smoke pour from many of the fires, and are blown to the south. As the smoke accumulates, the land is completely obscured from view. It appears some of the smoke may be mixing with a cloud bank in the southwest.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 9/6/2012
Resolutions: 1km ( B), 500m ( B), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC