Last update: November 18th, 2019 at 11:00 am
Late in the calendar year, widespread agricultural fires spring up across Africa in the semi-arid grasslands known as the Sahel and in the tropical savannas to the south. This natural-color image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite on November 27, 2008, shows fires (marked in red dots) across central Africa. The top edge of the image traces the northern edge of the Sahel, where it meets the Sahara Desert. The vegetation becomes lusher to the south, where rainfall is more abundant. In southern Cameroon and the Central African Republic, the savannas transition to woodlands and forest.
For hundreds, possibly thousands of years, people in these landscapes have used fire to drive game for hunting, to clear and renew pasture for cattle, and to prepare ground for crops. Although these agricultural fires are not necessarily immediately hazardous, they can have a large impact on air quality and human health, climate, and natural resources.