It was early in the dry season in Democratic Republic of Congo when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASAs Aqua satellite captured this image on May 13, 2010. MODIS detected hundreds of active fires (location marked in red) in southern Democratic Republic of Congo and northeastern Angola, a sign that the agricultural burning season was in full swing.
More than half of the gross domestic product (the value of all the goods and services produced by a country) of Democratic Republic of Congo comes from the agriculture sector, and fire is a pivotal part of agriculture across most of Africa. People burn crop residue to clear fields after harvest, and they burn forest and other natural vegetation to clear new land for farming. Fire is also used to drive game and grazing animals to new locations and to stimulate new growth in pastures.
This annual burning has taken place for hundreds, possibly thousands of years, and it is not necessarily immediately hazardous. But it can have a strong influence on air quality and public health, as well as on climate and natural resources.