Last update: October 17th, 2019 at 9:00 am
Fires continued to burn across Thailand in the opening days March 2016, creating a smoky haze across the region. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) captured this true-color image of the scene on March 1.
Red “hotspots” speckle Thailand as well as Myanmar (Burma) to the west and Cambodia (east). Each hotspot marks an area where the thermal sensors on the MODIS instrument detected temperatures higher than background. When accompanied by smoke, such as in this image, such hotspots indicate actively burning fires.
The time of year, the widespread nature, and the location of the fires suggest most of these are agricultural in origin – fires deliberately set to manage cropland or pastureland. The region is also known for “slash-and-burn” agricultural techniques, in which new land – often forest – is opened for agriculture using fire.
Fires which are set for agricultural reasons may escape control and become wildfires – and are often very destructive. Fires burning in the hot season – February through April – are even more likely to ignited unintended dry vegetation and slip out of control.
While the hotspot signature of agricultural fires tends to appear as small red spots scattered over a wide area, in this image many of the red spots are quite large. Very large hotspots, or tight clusters of smaller hotspots, are suggestive of wildfires. Several such signatures exist in this image.
Significantly destructive wildfires have been reported in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, which corresponds to the large cluster of hotspots congregated in the green forested mountains in the west of Thailand. A very large hotspot with smoke pouring from it can be seen in the northeast section of the country, in Nakhon Nayok. On March 5, the National New Bureau of Thailand reported that an additional 120 firefighters were being sent to try to control these fires, which had ignited in February.