Fires in Africa

Northern Africa Fire Season

10 January 2007

In northern Africa south of the Sahara Desert, the landscape transitions intoa sparse, semi-arid savanna known as the Sahel, and then into more humidsavannas farther south. Across the region, extensive agricultural-relatedburning takes place each year for several months during the Northern Hemispherefall and winter. People set thousands of fires to clear brush, burn off cropstubble, and renew pasture grasses.

8 January 2007

This image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite shows a view ofnorthern Africa captured in successive satellite overpasses of the area overseveral hours on January 8, 2007. Aqua observes the Earth from east to west, sothe right-hand part of the image was captured first. The white stripes show gapsbetween overpasses. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of active fires (marked inred) were detected by MODIS across a broad area. North of the Gulf of Guinea,the landscape is blurred by a dust cloud driven into the area in previous daysfrom the Bodele Depression to the northeast. A bright swath of dust in the sceneindicates another dust storm is brewing in the depression.

People have been using fire to manage landscapes in Africa for thousands ofyears. While such burning is not necessarily immediately hazardous, it can havea strong impact on weather, climate, human health, and natural resources.

The large image provided above has a spatial resolution (level of detail) of1 kilometer per pixel.

(source: EarthObservatory).

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