In southern Borneo, a cluster of fires was burning on September 18, 2005. These and other fires have been creating a severe air quality problem for the island throughout September. The image was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite; active fires have been marked with red dots.
One reason fires on Borneo are so smoky is that they are usually burning in peat swamp forests. The island’s low-lying areas are home to swampy forests where leaves and other organic matter decay very slowly because of the soggy conditions. The dead material accumulates in thick layers called peat. When peat dries out, either due to drought or because of logging that opens the forest canopy and exposes the ground to the Sun, the peat become flammable. Fires started in peat forests can burn out of control for months, churning out thick smoke.
NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data obtained courtesy of the MODIS Rapid Response team.