Smoke hovers over northern India during post-harvest fires • Earth.com

Last update: December 1st, 2020 at 2:00 pm

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory shows thick smoke over northern India as farmers burn off leftover rice stalks and hay in post-harvest fires.

There were an extremely large number of paddy fires across the region this year. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) sensor on the Suomi NPP satellite detected nearly 87,000 signals of active fires through mid-November across four rice-growing states, with the most activity found in the state of Punjab.

Hiren Jethva is a scientist with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center who tracks fire activity in the region. 

“We predicted in early October that this would end up being one of the most active years for fires on the VIIRS record, and that is exactly what has happened so far,” said Jethva. “The number of fires that happen is directly related to the area planted and to the yield.” According to news reports, good monsoon rains and an increase in the price of rice incentivized farmers to plant more than usual in 2020.”

“Because of labor shortages related to the spread of COVID-19, farmers had to do more direct sowing of seed rather than transplanting seedlings from nurseries,” explained USRA scientist Pawan Gupta. “This moved the whole season earlier by about a week to ten days, and translated into record fire activity in the Punjab early in the season and a longer burning season than usual,” 

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

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