Fires in Central America: 17 May 1999

Fires in Central America

17 May 1999

Several active fire signals are recorded by OSEI with the NOAA AVHRR and GOES Sensors on 14 May 1999 in Mexico and Central America .

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Fig.1., 2. and 3. NOAA images of fire areas and smoke plumes in Mexico and Central America on 14 May 1999
(Source: NOAA

Figure 1 shows heat signatures and smoke plumes from areas of fire burning in southwestern Mexico. The most active hot spots are annotated with yellow arrows. Smoke drifts over the Gulf of Mexico from areas of fire burning in Mexico and Central America are shown in Figure 2. Heat signatures from the aforementioned areas of fire. Most can be seen in Mexico and Guatemala. A few are also visible in western Mexico but are difficult to see because of the bright area caused by solar heating of the surface in central Mexico (Fig. 3).

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 detailed reports on fire use and wildfires in Mexico refer to the IFFN Country Notes.
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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