Image: Fires in Australia

Apr 18, 2013
In the Kimberley region of Western Australia, there are two distinct seasons: a wet season between December and March and a dry season between May and October. Reversals in the direction of prevailing winds are the driving force behind the seasonal shift. Credit: NASA images by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response. Caption by Adam Voiland.

In the Kimberley region of Western Australia, there are two distinct seasons: a wet season between December and March and a dry season between May and October. Reversals in the direction of prevailing winds are the driving force behind the seasonal shift.

If there are going to be bush fires in the area's tropical savannas, the best time is early in the dry season, when vegetation has dried enough to burn but is still wet enough that fires won't grow out of control. In April and May, fires usually burn themselves out within a few days. The worst time for is late in the , when vegetation has dried to tinder and blazes tend to be uncontrollable, intense, and dangerous.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer () on 's Aqua satellite acquired this image of dozens of managed fires in Kimberley on April 10, 2013. All of the fires were south and west of the Isdell River; some were burning in and near Windjana Gorge National Park, a popular tourist destination.

Although smoke plumes are visible, that's not how MODIS detected the fires. Rather, the instrument sensed thermal infrared energy radiating from the . The heat is invisible in images like this, but the locations where MODIS detected fire are labeled with red outlines.

These are part of a program managed by the Australian government and by conservation groups. The Ecofire effort, ongoing since 2007, has the goal of reducing destructive late-season fires by increasing the number of early-season fires. The early fires tend to burn in a patchwork pattern that makes it easier for vegetation to reestablish itself afterwards. Late-season fires, in contrast, often sweep across the landscape and leave expansive burn scars that alter ecosystems for years.

The intent of Ecofire is to return the landscape to a burning regime that mirrors what happened in the past. For tens of thousands of years, aboriginal people in the region engaged in a practice known as "fire-stick farming." People intentionally lit fires in the early-season to encourage the growth of grasslands and to make it easier to locate and track animals for hunting. As traditional lifestyles have been replaced by modern ways of living, the number of early season fires has decreased and the number of destructive, later fires has increased.

Explore further: NASA image: Beaver complex and July complex wildfires in California

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Image: Fires in Central America

Apr 12, 2013

On April 11, 2013, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA's Aqua satellite passed over Mexico and Central America, and acquired this true-color image of dozens of fires burning ...

Image: Fires in the Yucatan Peninsula

Apr 11, 2013

Dozens of red hot spots cluster at the tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. To the south, fires also speckle the neck of the Yucatan, Guatemala, and Belize. Each hot spot, which appears as a red mark, is an ...

Image: Fires in Nepal

Apr 15, 2013

Agricultural fires are set all over the world at different times to prepare the soil for the planting of new crops.

Image: Fires in Victoria, Australia

Apr 11, 2013

There are a number of fires burning in Victoria, Australia and smoke and heat signatures were captured from them by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument that flies aboard NASA's ...

Image: Fires in Southeastern United States

Apr 11, 2013

Many plumes of smoke from fires burning across the southeastern United States of America can be seen here. The fires are affecting several states including Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, and Florida.

Image: Fires in India and Nepal

Apr 11, 2013

Agricultural fires are set all over the world at different times to prepare the soil for the planting of new crops.

Recommended for you

NASA sees Tropical Storm Lowell's tough south side

5 hours ago

The south side of Tropical Storm Lowell appears to be its toughest side. That is, the side with the strongest thunderstorms, according to satellite imagery from NOAA's GOES-14 and NASA-NOAA's Suomi NPP satellites.

User comments : 0