The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite detected dozens of fires burning in northwestern India on May 05, 2013. The fires are marked by red “hotspots”, which indicate areas where the thermal sensors on the MODIS instrument have detected temperatures higher than background. When combined with characteristic smoke plumes, such hot spots indicate actively burning fires.
Most of the fires burn in grass or cropland, which appears tan. The deep green forest to the east sits in the Great Himalayan National Park and seems to be mostly fire-free.
The location, widespread nature, and number of fires suggest that these fires were deliberately set to manage land. Farmers often use fire to return nutrients to the soil and to clear the ground of unwanted plants. While fire helps enhance crops and grasses for pasture, the fires also produce smoke that degrades air quality. The agricultural burning season in this region usually runs from mid- to late-January, after the year’s primary crops are harvested, through April or May, when the next growing season begins.