Several large fires burning near Alice Springs, Australia, blanketed roads and railroads with smoke and interfered with travel on September 29, 2011. In this image, taken in the early afternoon of September 29 by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite, a thick cloud of smoke covers hundreds of kilometers south and north of Alice Springs. The fires are outlined in red.
Several large fires have burned throughout northern and central Australia during September. In the large image, which includes a much wider area, smoke hangs over most of Australia’s vast Northern Territory. Fire has been so widespread this year, reports the Sydney Morning Herald, because normally sparse grasses currently cover much of the country after a rainy year. The dry winter season allowed the grass to dry enough that any small spark can set off a large fire. Grass fires are dangerous because they move quickly and can change direction without warning.