Central America: 15 March 1999

Central America

15 March 1999

Several active fire signals in Central America are recorded by OSEI with the NOAA AVHRR Sensor on 12 March 1999.

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Fig.1. NOAA image of the vegetation fires in Central America 12 March 1999
(Source: NOAA http://www.osei.noaa.gov/)

The heat signatures are detected in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. These heat signatures are most likely shifting cultivation fires as well as forest conversion fires. Some of them may also be wildfires.

Most of the fires in Central America must be seen in the context of intensive land development. Fire is used as a tool in forest conversion. This is done by small farmers as well as large agro-industrial companies. The careless use of fire often allow the “prescribed” burnings to escape and become forest fires in the adjacent forests. Almost all fires inCentral America are human-caused, natural fires play a minor role in the tropical rain forest of Central America.

Under normal weather conditions the primary forest in the humid tropics does not catch fire. The hydrological cycle in the closed forests produces a very humid microclimate where unfavourable conditions for forest fire exist. But in forests where selective logging already took place the former closed canopy is disturbed. This allows more light to penetrate through the canopy and thereby changing the energy balance within the forest – the forest becomes more susceptible to drought and consequently to fire.

For a detailed report on the remote sensing of vegetation fires in Nicaragua refer to the report “The Use of Low Spatial Resolution Remote Sensing for Fire Monitoring in Nicaragua: a survey of three successive burnings seasons“.

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