In areas of already low vegetation (this region receives less than 14 inches of rainfall each year) it can sometimes be hard to distinguish burned areas from naturally bare soil or low vegetation. In these cases, false-color image analysis can be useful. This false-color image of Kazakhstan reveals scattered fires (red dots) burning over an already widely burned landscape. Fires, probably agricultural in nature, have burned in the region on and off all summer long, and have left their marks all across the landscape. In the image, naturally bare soil is pinkish, vegetation is green, burned areas are deep reddish brown, and water is dark blue or black.
There are different kinds of burn scars visible. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of small squares and rectangles create a speckled pattern over the tan-colored landscape, and are very prominent in the upper-left quadrant of the image. These small burns are best viewed in the high-resolution image. The regular, geometric shape of these burn scars is a sure sign that they are human-caused, and are probably the result of numerous small farmers using fire to clear land for farming or to regenerate pasture for grazing animals. Other larger, more irregular burn scars are visible, (for example, just above image center) and these may be natural grassland fires, or agricultural burns that got out of control.
These images of southern Russia (top) and Kazakhstan (bottom) from August through October 2002 reveal scattered fires burning over an already widely burned region. Fires have burned in the region on and off all summer long, leaving their dark marks across the landscape.