Several active fire signals were recorded by OSEI with the NOAA-14 POES AVHRR HRPT satellite on 19 January 2000 in Paraguay and Argentina.
Fig. 1. Scattered heat signatures and smoke plumes from areas of fire burning in Paraguay and Argentina.
The fire signatures diplayed by today’s OSEI images represent land-use fires and wildfires in the Chaco region of Northern Argentina and Paraguay, especially in the Entre Rios parks (Parque mesopotámico) South of Asunción, the capital of Paraguay.
Almost one third of Argentina is included in the Chaco region of South America. Climate features shift from humid in the East to arid toward the West, with rainfall mainly during the summer months. Winter is dry and cold, with frosts sometimes reaching -15° C. The vegetation of the Chaco region is a mixture of savannas, thorn shrublands and hardwood forests alternating in belts and patches. Evidence suggests that fire has been a natural component of the Chaco ecosystem for thousands of years. Indians used fire for warfare and hunting; in fact, “Chaco” means “a site for hunting” in the Quichua language. Fire swept across the savannas and shrublands and on some occasions hit the hardwood forest that burned with high intensity. Tolerance of species to fire is mixed. The fire cycle is estimated to be around 3-5 years in savannas. Some of the Chaco areas are “Palmares”, open palm stands with periodically waterlogged grass understorey which are fire adapted.
Despite the ecological adaptations to fire and the historic evidence of fire in the Chaco system, the increasing land-use pressure leads to more frequent fires. During exceptionally extended droughts such as the current one the fires cause considerable damage and spread to those places which normally do not burn.