On April 25, 2014, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite observed dozens of fires burning in North Korea. Actively burning areas, detected by the thermal bands on MODIS, are outlined in red. Fields and grasslands appear light brown. Forests at lower elevations appear green; at higher elevations, forests are still brown at this time of year.
Many fires appear in farming areas along rivers. While North Korea’s best agricultural land is located on the coastal plain in the western part of the country, many people farm marginal land along rivers in the mountainous areas. They use fire to clear debris from last year’s crops and to help fertilize the soil for the coming season.
However, some of the fires were burning in heavily forested areas, suggesting that they might be wildfires. Drooping wires on aging power lines are a common cause of wildfires in North Korea, according to a report published in the Asia-Pacific Journal.
Collectively, the fires produced enough smoke to send plumes of haze drifting east over the Sea of Japan.
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Adam Voiland.