Fires in Australia

Firesin Australia

11 November 2005

Fires on Cape York Peninsula

Several large fires were burning across the tropical savannas of the Cape York Peninsula on 5 November 2005, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite passed overhead. The red outlines enclose areas where MODIS detected actively burning fires. The burned ground stands out in deep brown against the olive-tan savanna landscape.

5 November 2005
10:20 hrs UTC
(Image courtesy MODIS)

click on image for a 250 m resolution

Both human-caused (for land management) and naturally occurring fires are common to the Cape York Peninsula. Fire plays a crucial role in maintaining the grasslands of Cape York’s 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 Australia’s Tropical Savannas Cooperative Research Centre, after 4 or 5 years without fires, grasslands may be completely lost to woodland dominated by the tea tree.

(Source: Earth Observatory)

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