February 18, 2014 - Fires on northern Sumatra, Indonesia

Fires on northern Sumatra, Indonesia

Fires dotted the coast of Northern Sumatra, Indonesia in early February, 2014. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite aboard the Terra satellite flew over the region and acquired this true-color image on February 06, 2014. Red hotspots mark the locations where the thermal sensors on the instrument detected temperatures higher than background. When combined with characteristic smoke, these hotspots indicate actively burning fire.

Slash and burn agriculture is banned in Indonesia, but that does not always stop the farmers from using it to clear fields. Although the rainy season usually runs through March, an unusual dry spell in the area has given farmers the window of opportunity to begin to clear fields early and many still use the slash and burn method. The Asia News Network reported that "'Farmers [in Riau] used the two weeks without rain to carry out slash- and-burn,' Tri Budiarto, the National Disaster Management Agency's deputy for emergency management, said in Jakarta on Wednesday." The Jakarta Post reported that, apart from forests and farms, seven hot spots were spotted in oil palm plantations and forest concessions.

It is not confirmed that the fires seen in this satellite image are connected to the slash and burn agriculture method, but it does seem likely given the history in that area.

Image Facts
Satellite: Terra
Date Acquired: 2/6/2014
Resolutions: 1km (41.3 KB), 500m (146.6 KB), 250m (340.9 KB)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC