NASA Satellite Images Provide Clues to Understanding Fire across the Globe [Slide Show]

For two weeks in April the world was ablaze. NASA satellites documented these infernos, both wild and controlled, as they burned from the U.S. to Australia
The smoke from shifting cultivation, as seen in this image, is extensive. Four days before this photograph was taken, a local newspaper in Laos announced flight delays due to farm-generated smoke that had originated in neighboring Burma.

NASA Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC

Wildfires can start spontaneously; vegetation can become so dry that sunlight can ignite it. Farmers also set deliberate, controlled fires, usually to clear crop residue in preparation for a new planting season. All of those fires play a role in the planet’s carbon cycle, which is why in October 2011 the newly formed NASA Fire and Smoke initiative began using NASA’s MODIS (Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) to track them. The MODIS project consists of two electromagnetic measuring instruments observing Earth’s surface from the satellites Terra and Aqua, which are in polar orbits but travelling in opposite directions; together, they monitor wildfires and agricultural burns across the planet. This month was the first time ever that MODIS captured fires raging almost simultaneously around the globe.

View the Global Fire slide show.

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