Fires in South America

Fires in South America

Fires were widespread across South America on August 24, 2006, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite passed over the continent and captured this image. The sensor detected scores of active fires (locations marked in red) in a variety of ecological regions, and thick smoke hung over the land in many places.

In the top part of the image, fires are burning intensely along the margins of large, tan-colored clearings that people have made in the Amazon Rainforest. The fires along the edges of the clearing may be fires set intentionally to clear new areas of rainforest for farming or ranching, or they may be accidental fires that escaped from people’s control on established agricultural lands.

In the center of the scene, the deep green of the Amazon transitions to a deep brown color. This region is known as the Gran Chaco, a dry, hot region of open woodland and grassland. Unlike the Amazon, this region is prone to naturally occurring fires, but the widespread nature of the fires and their location along clearings and roads suggests that many could be human-caused.

In southern Brazil, eastern Argentina, and Uruguay, an expansive grassland known as the Pampas was also experiencing numerous fires at the time of this image. Large farms and ranches exist in the fertile plains of the Pampas, and the fires seen here could be natural or human-caused.

The high-resolution image provided above has a spatial resolution of 500 meters per pixel. The MODIS Rapid Response System provides this image at additional resolutions, including MODIS’ maximum resolution of 250 meters per pixel.

NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center.