Several large fires were burning in South Africa when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image on September 15, 2010. Wind blows the thick plumes of pale brown smoke east over the Indian Ocean. The fires are outlined in red.
Most of the fires were probably set by people who use fire as a tool to manage land, but some of the fires may be wildfires. The savannas of southern Africa have long been shaped by fires, which remove woody bushes to make way for grasses. Since September is the end of the dry season in South Africa, plants are at their driest and the landscape is prone to fire.
Widespread fires extend north through Mozambique in the large image, which shows a much larger area. The large image is the highest-resolution version of the image, but the image is available in additional resolutions from the MODIS Rapid Response Team.
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This image originally appeared on the Earth Observatory. Click here to view the full, original record.