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Fires in Western Africa
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science. However, more recent observations and studies may have rendered some content obsolete.
Hundreds of fires, probably agriculture related, were burning across West Africa in late December 2009. This natural-color image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite from December 26 shows fire locations detected by the sensor marked in red.
Vegetation is sparse in the northern part of the scene, which is closer to the Sahara Desert, and more lush in the southern part, which is closer to the Gulf of Guinea (visible in the large version of the image). Little smoke comes from the fires in the drier areas, but several of the fires in the greener areas emit plumes of smoke.
Fire has been used to manage agricultural lands in Africa for thousands of years. Prior to the onset of the seasonal rains, people use fire to clear crop residues, burn rubbish, and renew pasture grasses. Although agricultural burning such as this is not necessarily immediately hazardous, it can have a major impact on air quality and human health, climate, and natural resources.