On September 14, 2019, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired a true-color image of fires burning on the Volga River Delta. At least three locations are affected, with very heavy smoke rising from each location. The smoke travels more than 60 miles (96.5 km) in from the source and generally to the northwest.
Red “hot spots” mark areas where the thermal bands on the instrument detected high temperatures. When combined with typical smoke, as in this image, such hot spots mark actively burning fire. While it is not usually possible to discern the cause of a fire from satellite imagery, the large size and intense smoke indicate these are unlikely to be agricultural fires (fires set for the deliberate management of crops or pasture), so are most likely wildfires.
The western-most fire appears to burn near or in the Astrakhan Nature Reserve, an area set aside for protection due to high ecological importance. The park houses biodiverse wetlands, provides important nesting area for waterfowl and wading birds, as well as supporting more than 50 species of fish. Astrakhan Nature Reserve is listed as a RAMSAR wetland site of international importance and is included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. In addition, all three sites appear to burn in the coastal areas of the Volga Delta which are listed by BirdLife International as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). It is estimated that a total of 5-10 million waterbirds pass through the area in autumn migration, which has already begun in the region.