Last update: September 18th, 2019 at 6:00 pm
The Siberian fire season heated up dramatically by May 2016, with many dozens of blazes pouring smoke into the air as fast-spreading flames created hazardous conditions. According to an article in the Moscow Times published on May 11, many large-scale wildfires erupted early that week, especially in the Amur region. By that date more than 42,000 hectares in Amur Oblast had been consumed, and the fire spread so rapidly that firefighters were instructed to focus on protecting towns and villages. Numerous fires were also reported in Buryatia and Zabaikalye regions.
On May 12, news agencies were reporting that more than 50 fires had broken out in the previous 24 hours – a serious intensification of the hazardous situation. More than half of the flames were in the Amur region. INTERFAX reported “according to the (Forestry) department the Far East has seen 628 forest fires across 169,400 hectares in the 2016 wildfire season. The district recorded 557 forest fires across 162,300 hectares in the corresponding period of last year.”
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite flew over the Amur Oblast on May 9, 2016 and captured this true-color image. Each red hotspot is an area where the thermal sensors on the instrument detected temperatures higher than background. When accompanied by smoke, as in this image, such hotspots are diagnostic for fire. The very heavy smoke is suggestive that some of the fires may be burning in peat. Peat fires tend to be intensely smoky, and are also difficult to extinguish as they may smolder underground for long periods. The Amur Oblast borders on China, where very few fires are visible.