Strong winds, high temperatures and months of drought fueled an outbreak of wildfire in northern Argentina in September, 2013. The fires burned mainly in forests, shrublands and grasslands which are part of arid chaco and espinal ecosystems.
On September 10, 2013 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of fires burning in northern Argentina. Red hotspots, accompanied by smoke, indicate actively burning fires and are scattered throughout Argentina, especially in the green, vegetated areas. Two large clusters of fires can be seen both to the north and to the south of Salinas Grande, the large, brightly reflective salt pan seen just west of center. Dust pours southward from crescent-shaped Mars Chiquita, a shallow saline lake, driven southward by strong wind. The northern fires burn in a forest area near Tartagal, but the most severe blazes struck Córdoba, the second most populous Argentine province. As of September 11 the fires had destroyed 40 homes, forced the evacuation of more than 500 people and charred about 20,000 hectares (77 square miles) of forest and grasslands.
Wildfires are fairly common in the late winter and early spring in northern Argentina, particularly during dry years. Many are set intentionally by ranchers to improve the quality of cattle forage, but not all intentionally set fires remain under control, especially when dry grassland is whipped by hard-blowing winds.