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Fires In South America
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Fires In South America

August 23, 2010
Hundreds, possibly thousands of fires, marked by bright red hotspots and plumes of grey smoke, were burning in South America on August 11, 2010, when the Moderate Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite passed overhead. This true-color image is centered on the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, which is shrouded by smoke and haze.

To the southwest lies Bolivia, where thousands of individual fires were reported to be burning in the northern and eastern Departments of Pando, Beni and Santa Cruz. To the southeast of Bolivia, the entire eastern one-third of Paraguay appears speckled red with hotspots, although little smoke rises from them. In the far southwest corner of the image, the northern tip of Argentina can be seen. It is nearly fire-free.

Fire season in South America corresponds with dry weather, and is generally considered to begin in May and end in October. During this season, wildfires are common. Fires may also be deliberately started for "land conversion" - to prepare land for grazing, for crops, or to clear impenetrable forests for recreation or other human use. Sometimes land conversion fires escape and become wild, consuming forest, agricultural lands and buildings.

In the northeast corner of the image a stripe of tan runs from northwest to southeast and is lined on the east and west with numerous hotspots, some of which are billowing heavy whitish-gray smoke. At high resolution, these hotspots can be seen to lie at the edges of tan rectangles which butt up against dark green areas. This checkerboard pattern of tan rectangles with crisp edges which appear within forest(dark green)is suggestive of deliberate clearing of forestland or of timber harvest.


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