Last update: November 14th, 2019 at 11:00 am
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired a true-color image of dozens of fires accompanied by heavy smoke in northeastern China on March 25, 2016. The location, widespread nature, and number of fires suggest that they were deliberately set for agricultural purposes. Farmers often use fire to return nutrients to the soil and to clear the ground of unwanted plants.
While fire helps enhance crops and grasses for pasture, the fires also produce smoke that degrades air quality. Each hot spot, which appears as a red mark, is an area where the thermal detectors on the MODIS instrument recognized temperatures higher than background. When accompanied by plumes of smoke, as in this image, such hot spots are diagnostic for fire. The smoke released by any type of fire (forest, brush, crop, structure, tires, waste or wood burning) is a mixture of particles and chemicals produced by incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials. All smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and particulate matter or soot.