Image courtesy NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL, MISR Team
At least once a year for a period lasting from a week to several months,
northern Sumatra is obscured by smoke and haze produced by agricultural burning
and forest fires. These data products from the Multi-angle Imaging
SpectroRadiometer (MISR) document the presence of airborne particulates on March 13,
2002. On the left is an image acquired by MISRs
70-degree backward- viewing camera. On the right is a map of aerosol optical
depth, a measure of the abundance of atmospheric particulates. This product
utilized a test version of the MISR retrieval that incorporates an experimental
set of aerosol mixtures. The haze has completely obscured northeastern Sumatra
and part of the Strait of Malacca, which separates Sumatra and the Malaysian
Peninsula. A northward gradient is apparent as the haze dissipates in the
direction of the Malaysian landmass. Each panel covers an area of about 760
kilometers x 400 kilometers.
Haze conditions had posed a health concern during late February (when schools
in some parts of North Sumatra were closed), and worsened considerably in the
first two weeks of March. By mid-March, local meteorology officials asked
residents of North Sumatras provincial capital, Medan, to minimize their
outdoor activities and wear protective masks. Poor visibility at Medan airport
forced a passenger plane to divert to Malaysia on March 14, and visibility
reportedly ranged between 100 and 600 meters in some coastal towns southeast of
The number and severity of this years fires was exacerbated by dry weather
conditions associated with the onset of a weak to moderate El Niño. The
governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei have agreed to ban open burning
in plantation and forest areas. The enforcement of such fire bans, however, has
proven to be an extremely challenging task.
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This image originally appeared on the Earth Observatory. Click here to view the full, original record.