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Fires and smoke in eastern Russia
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Fires and smoke in eastern Russia

July 21, 2011
Only 280 miles south of the Arctic Circle in eastern Russia, a cluster of wildfires burn in the taiga near the city of Yakutsk, causing the region to be shrouded in a dense cloak of smoke. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite captured this natural color image on July 18, 2011.

In this image, the fires burning on July 18 are marked in red. The Lena River, which rises from the Baikal Mountains in the southwest and flows northward to the Arctic Ocean, courses across entire the image, but the smoke is so thick that it entirely obscures the river in the southwest section of the image. Beginning near the center of the image, the Lena River comes into view. At the horseshoe curve of the river, a gray smudge along the banks marks the city of Yakutsk, the capital city of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and home to about 270,000 people. A number of fires burn in the forests on the west and east banks of the Lena in this vicinity.

Forest fires are common in many areas of Siberia in the summer, and are especially prevalent when the normally cool summers turn hot and dry, as they have in this year in eastern Russia. Multiple fires have been burning in the region since early May.

As of July 17, fires were burning on 1,341 hectares (3,314 acres), according to RIA Novosti. On July 20, the same source reported that hundreds of children were evacuated from a summer camp in Sakha (Yakutia) as fire burned only 11 km (6.8 mi) away from the village housing the camp. On that same day, another major forest fire was reported to be only 60 km (37 mi) from Yakutsk.