March 31, 2014 - Fires in Indochina
Agricultural fires continue to burn in the Indochina region in mid-March 2014. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image on March 18 as it passed over the region. Red color marks “hot spots” – areas where the thermal sensors on the instrument detected high temperatures. When combined with smoke, such hotspots are diagnostic for actively burning fires.
Heavy clusters of hotspots can be seen, from west to east, in southeastern India, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos. Thailand, south of Laos, is shrouded in heavy smoke but has relatively fewer fires. Along the eastern coast, Vietnam is covered by cloud.
Fire is used in cropland areas for pest and weed control and to prepare fields for planting. Crop residue burning helps farmers as it is a cheap and effective method to remove excess residue. If this excess residue is not removed, future seeding is prevented by shading out the next crop and facilitating mold growth. Crop residue burning also provides a short-term ash fertilization effect.
Although this seasonal burning helps farmers with their crops, it has detrimental effects as well. Vast amounts of smoke are released into the atmosphere causing air pollution and adversely affecting health, especially to those with respiratory concerns.