Fires in Central America

Fires inCentral America

27 April 2005

Latest OSEI scene: 

Central America has large areas of smoke. The smoke could be due to the annual crop burns that are going on in Central America.
Source: OSEI, 26 April 2005



Latest MOPITT scene:


Smoke over Central America
For much of March and April, fires have dotted the Central American landscape, blanketing the region with smoke. (See Fires in Mexico and Central America.) In addition to smoke, the fires have released large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which have been detected by the Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere (MOPITT) radiometer on NASA´s Terra satellite.
The false-color image above shows the average number of carbon monoxide molecules in the lower atmosphere between April 10 and April 20, 2005. If you were to squash a column of the atmosphere into a flat square centimeter, this measurement would reveal how many molecules of carbon monoxide filled that area. Broad strokes of red and yellow reveal high levels of carbon monoxide over all of Central America. Shades of light and dark blue that represent low carbon monoxide values are entirely missing, replaced with the aquamarine of intermediate values to show the lowest levels of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a good tracer of pollution since it is produced as a by-product of the combustion associated with wildfires and agricultural fires.
NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, using data provided by the NCAR and University of Toronto MOPITT Teams


Latest Media News:


Honduras: Forest fire smoke forces airport closure
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — A choking pall of smoke forced closure of Honduras’ troubled main airport for a sixth consecutive day, causing chaos for travelers to and from the Central American nation.
Hundreds of forest, brush and cropland fires have fed a 10,000-foot (3,000-meter) layer of brownish smoke over much of Honduras, causing visibility at Toncontin International Airport in Tegucigalpa Monday to fall below the minimum legal requirement of 3 kilometers (nearly 2 miles).
Exhausted visitors seeking flights out of the Honduran capital have daily crowded the airport’s small departure lounge, echoing with a string of flight cancellation announcements.
Many have been forced to take long bus trips along winding roads to the northern city of San Pedro Sula or to neighboring El Salvador and Nicaragua.
“The situation will continue because visibility is restricted to 1,000 meters (about 3,300 feet),” said Nabil Kawas, chief of the National Meteorological Service.
He said that the airport in the northern city of San Pedro Sula also was closed for two hours on Monday, threatening to disrupt the diversion of flights that had been unable to land in Tegucigalpa.
A few flights managed to leave Toncontin on Wednesday and it was open again for a few hours each on Saturday on Sunday.
Officials have been struggling for years to replace Toncontin, whose short runway and neighboring hills make it one of the world’s more dangerous airports.
The airport lacks sophisticated modern navigation equipment so planes require visibility better than that required at most other major strips. A lack of landing lights prevents airlines from using Toncontin after dark.
The problem is complicated each April by farmers’ tradition of burning their fields to prepare for planting season, often igniting forest fires.
“The smoke has been caused by more than 450 forest fires, which have destroyed 5,500 hectares (13,585 acres) of pine forests in national territory,” said Oscar Triminio, a spokesman for the national fire department. He said 300 of those fires were near Tegucigalpa.
Smoke shut down the nation’s four major airports for a total of 28 days in May 1998.
In December, Honduras said it hoped to reach agreement with the United States to use the country’s best airfield — the U.S.-controlled Soto Cano Air Base, 45 kilometers (25 miles) north of the capital, as a passenger and cargo hub. It has a 3,000-meter (9,900-foot) runway.
As in the past, the government said it was still seeking international financing to help with the project. Lack of financing thus far has undermined all attempts to replace Toncontin.
Projects to scrap Toncontin were revived in July 1997, when a U.S. Air Force cargo plane crashed at the airport, rolling off its short, 1,600-meter (5,300-foot) runway and exploding on an adjacent boulevard. Three crew members were killed.
The airport’s worst accident came in 1989, when a Honduran airliner hit a hill near the airport, killing 133 people.

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