Some features of this site are not compatible with your browser. Install Opera Mini to better experience this site.

Fires and Smoke in Sumatra

Fires and Smoke in Sumatra

A prolonged dry spell across Malaysia (top right) and Sumatra (center) was contributing to numerous fires burning across the region, which billowed thick, choking smoke out over the Indian Ocean (left) and the Strait of Malacca (between Sumatra and Malaysia). This image of the region was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite on March 9, 2005. Active fires detected by MODIS have been marked with red dots.

The smokiest fires are burning along the eastern coastline of Sumatra in the Riau province. This low-lying coastal region is home to a variety of moist vegetation ecosystems, including peat forests, which are particularly smoky when burned. The intense smoke is produced not only by burning trees, but from the burning of the peat soil itself. Peat is composed of layers of undecayed plant matter. The layers accumulate in places where decompostion is slowed down, such as very cold areas, or areas where the soil is often waterlogged. During severe dry spells, the peat can dry out and become very flammable. It is possible that the smokiest fires pictured in this image include fires burning in peat.

NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data courtesy of the MODIS Rapid Response team.