Summer in central Russia brings a greening of the land as fields fill with growing grass and crops, and the trees of the taiga burst forth in full leaf, but the summer of 2013 has brought a great graying to the skies from an ocean of smoke so thick that it hides the verdant land from view.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of central Russia on July 31 as it passed over the region. The smoke reaches from northern Krasnoyarsk Krai, over the moist tundra just east of the Kara Sea (upper left corner) to the forests of the Amur Oblast, just north of the border with Mongolia (lower right corner). Very little of this broad swath of land is smoke-free and the dingy, gray smoke is so thick that in some areas it is impossible to see any hint of the land below, even at 250 m resolution.
On July 29, ITAR-TASS reported that over 170 forest fires were burning about 53,000 hectares in Russia, with 9 fires in Yakutia (over 44,000 hectares), 56 wildfires in the Yamal-Nenets autonomous area (4,000 hectares), 34 fires in Khanty-Mansi autonomous area (1,500 hectares), 31 fires in Krasnoyarsk territory (1,400 hectares) and 30 fires in Komi (1,300 hectares).
Roughly the upper third of this image lies above the Arctic Circle – an area where relatively few fires burn annually. However, in this image, several red hotspots, indicating actively burning fires, can be seen near or above the Arctic Circle. Reports of one Arctic fire, burning in both tundra and taiga, and scorching the earth in an area of roughly 30 x 70 miles, has been substantiated by a close look at MODIS imagery from August 9.