Last update: October 17th, 2019 at 5:00 am
Central Africa lay under a thick haze of smoke from many dozens of fires burning across the landscape in early June 2016. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image of agricultural fires across central Africa, including Zambia (center), Angola (west), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (north).
For many centuries fire has been integral to the life in Africa, sweeping across the continent in a wave that moves north to south following the seasons, becoming most prevalent during planting and harvest, and also near the end of the dry seasons, when lighting naturally ignites tinder-dry savanna. While lightning is part of the natural ecosystem, humans have set and controlled fire to clear land for new crops, to renew pasture, to return nutrients to the soil, to remove pests, to hunt and to make charcoal for cooking. Wildfires tend to burn sporadically and become large, while man-made fires used for agricultural purposes tend to remain small but appear in intense groups throughout a region at once. The fires in this image are typical of agricultural fires in this region, which tend to peak in June.