Wildfires continued to burn in eastern Russia on July 27, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image.
Red hotspots dot the green landscape of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), each marking a spot where the thermal sensors on the MODIS instrument detected high temperatures. When combined with smoke such hotspots indicate actively burning fire. In this image, dense smoke rises from dozens of hotspots and blows generally to the south or southwest, where it coalesces into a massive bank of smoke. This smoke bank appears to blend with the clouds in the southwest. Curving from south to north in the image is the Lena River, the easternmost of Russia’s three great rivers which flow into the Arctic Ocean.
According to a report in the Siberian Times, most of these fires ignited due to ‘dry thunderstorms’, where lightning strikes unaccompanied by significant rain. Such storms can easily ignite fires in dry vegetation. The Sakha Republic has suffered an unusually dry winter and very warm spring and summer in 2014. It is a region of permafrost, where the ground typically remains frozen all year. When temperatures warm excessively, permafrost begins to melt and the peat-rich soil can make ready fuel for fire. Peat fires emit very dense smoke, and can be difficult to manage, as fires in peatlands can continue to smolder underground for long periods after the surface fire has been extinguished.