May 26, 2015 - Fires and burn scars near Lake Baikal, Russia

Fires and burn scars near Lake Baikal, Russia

A hot spring coupled with high winds and a relatively dry winter has set the stage for abundant fire damage in parts of Siberia. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this false-color image on May 13, 2015 as it passed over the region.

While MODIS true-color images are quite useful at spotting fires, a false-color image can give assistance in gaining more information about fires, especially large ones. One of the strengths of this type of false-color image (which uses short-wave infrared, near infrared and green) is the ability to distinguish burn scars from background, and thus aid in determining the damage of a given fire.

In this false-color image, snow appears electric blue, clouds are white with a tinge of blue, vegetation is bright green and bare land appears tan. The waters of Lake Baikal appear inky blue, and the cold ice floating on top of the lake is the same color as snow. Each red hot-spot marks an area where the thermal sensors on the instrument detected an area hotter than background, and in this case mark actively burning fires. Burn scars appear brick red, and clearly stand out from the background. Fresher scars tend to be darker than older scars.

These fires are most likely agricultural in origin, and were deliberately set to manage cropland or pasture. The early spring fires, typical of land management in this region, were first seen in April, but the winds, high temperature and dry conditions made such fires risky – and some burned out of control, becoming damaging wildfires. The extent of damage of some of these wildfires can be clearly seen from space.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 5/13/2015
Resolutions: 1km (375.1 KB), 500m (1.3 MB), 250m (3.1 MB)
Bands Used: 7,2,1
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC