Hundreds of Fires Across Africa

Hundreds of hot spots indicative for fires dot the landscape of Africa.  Most of the fires are located in Angola, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in this natural-color satellite image collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite on August 15, 2014. Actively burning areas, detected by MODIS’s thermal bands, appear as red dots.

Most likely the cause of so many fires at one time is agricultural in nature.  The location, widespread nature, and number of fires suggest that these fires were deliberately set to manage land. Farmers often use fire to return nutrients to the soil and to clear the ground of unwanted plants. While fire helps enhance crops and grasses for pasture, the fires also produce smoke that degrades air quality.  The smoke released by any type of fire (forest, brush, crop, structure, tires, waste or wood burning) is a mixture of particles and chemicals produced by incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials. All smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter (PM or soot) and should be avoided.

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team. Caption: NASA/Goddard, Lynn Jenner


Page Last Updated: August 20th, 2014
Page Editor: Lynn Jenner