In mid-August, several locations in mainland Malaysia declared air quality emergencies, as smoke from burning in Indonesia wafted across the Strait of Malacca and blanketed the country with haze. Many regions closed their schools and businesses, and news reports have indicated this may be the worst air quality event the country has experienced since the terrible fire season on Sumatra during the 1997-98 El Niño.
This pair of images shows the region in Sumatra where many of the fires are burning (left), and the resulting smoke blanketing Malaysia (right). Although it is sometimes difficult to distinguish smoke from clouds, the infrared-enhanced view can penetrate the smoke in places. In this type of image, vegetation is bright green, clouds are white or light blue, and smoke becomes almost transparent in many places. Water is dark blue (nearly black). Actively burning fires are marked with red dots. These images were captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite on August 12, 2005.
A thick cloud of smoke pours from forest fires on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Forest fires are common in Indonesia during the hot, dry months of the dry season, which runs from June to September.