The climate of Southeast Asia is controlled by the monsoon, a climate characterized by two seasons: a wet phase, where winds blow inland from over the ocean, bringing frequent rains; and a dry phase, where winds blow from the continent out to sea. In April, the dry phase of the monsoon is drawing to a close, and agricultural burning has been underway for several months, as farmers prepare their fields and pastures for the upcoming growing season.
In 2005, Southeast Asia’s annual dry season was being magnified by an intense drought. On April 10, 2005, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this scene of intense burning in Myanmar, Thailand, northern Laos, Vietnam and China. The number of actively burning fires (marked in red) is particularly high in northern Laos. Thick, brownish-gray smoke spreads eastward from the fires.
NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data obtained from the MODIS Rapid Response team.