Fires in South Atlantic

Fires in the East Falkland Islands, SouthAtlantic

17 October 2007

The Falkland Islands are an overseas territory of the UnitedKingdom, referred to by Argentina (which also claims the islands) as the IslasMalvinas. Falkland Sound, which is 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) wide at the narrowpoint, separates the main islands of East Falkland (image center) and WestFalkland (along image left). Together they total about the same area as theState of Connecticut or Northern Ireland. The islands lie almost 500 kilometers(310 miles) from the Argentine coast and less than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles)from Antarctica. The first flights to these remote islands were only implementedin 1971.

The capital city of Stanley lies on the eastern tip of East Falkland. Thelocal inhabitants are mainly English speakers, and interestingly, the islandshave become a center of English-language learning for students from SouthAmerica.

The windy and relatively dry climate, which receives roughly 600 millimeters(24 inches) of precipitation annually, has given rise to natural vegetationcomprised of treeless grassland with scattered bogs. The grasslands are idealfor sheep rearing—the dominant occupation until recent decades, when fishing (mainlysquid for Spain) and tourism became the mainstays of the economy. These expansesof grassland provide ready fuel for fires, as indicated by the several longsmoke plumes visible in this astronaut photograph. This near-nadir image wasacquired at the southernmost extent of the International Space Station’slatitudinal orbit range of approximately 52 degrees north to 52 degrees south relative to the surface ofthe Earth.

source: EarthObservatory)

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