Across the Cape York Peninsula in northern Australia, several large fires were burning when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image on October 5, 2005. The actively burning areas of the fire are outlined in red. Several smoke plumes drift westward over the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Fire plays a crucial role in maintaining the grasslands of Cape York’s tropical savanna landscape. In the absence of fire, woody shrubs come to dominate the landscape. They are able to do this because the more shallowly rooted grasses die back at the height of the dry season, while the more deeply rooted shrubs can continue to grow. According to Australia’s Tropical Savannas Cooperative Research Centre, after 4 or 5 years without fires, grasslands may be completely lost to woodland dominated by the tea tree.
The high-resolution image provided above has a spatial resolution of 250 meters per pixel.
NASA image courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team,Goddard Space Flight Center