Across the Cape York Peninsula in northern Australia, several large fires were burning when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASAs Aqua satellite captured this image on 5 October 2005. The actively burning areas of the fire are outlined in red. Several smoke plumes drift westward over the Gulf of Carpentaria.
5 October 2005
10:20 hrs UTC
(Image courtesy MODIS)
click on image for a 250 m resolution
Fire plays a crucial role in maintaining the grasslands of Cape Yorks tropical savanna landscape. In the absence of fire, woody shrubs come to dominate the landscape. They are able to do this because the more shallowly rooted grasses die back at the height of the dry season, while the more deeply rooted shrubs can continue to grow. According to Australias Tropical Savannas Cooperative Research Centre, after 4 or 5 years without fires, grasslands may be completely lost to woodland dominated by the tea tree.