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Smoke Over the Sea of Okhotsk
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Smoke Over the Sea of Okhotsk

November 11, 2005

Throughout mid- to late October 2005, scores of fires were burning in Russia's Far East and along the border with China. When this image was captured on October 31, a swirling cloud of smoke hung over Sakhalin Island and the Sea of Okhotsk.

Two fires (marked in red) were detected in the scene, but they are probably not solely responsible for the smoke. Fires farther west, outside the frame of the image, are likely contributing to the haze, as well.

In recent years, researchers have emphasized the importance of boreal (Northern) forests as a reservoir for carbon, which is related to the problem of global warming. Because of this, the monitoring of fires in the boreal forests has become a priority for Earth-observing satellites.

Scientists use images such as this one to estimate the severity of burns and estimate how much carbon is released into the atmosphere. Images can also serve as an early-warning system and allow for specific targeting for further reconnaissance.