Smoke hovers over Venezuela during intense fire season -

Smoke hovers over Venezuela during intense fire season

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features Venezuela under a blanket of smoke from large fires. Captured by NASA’s Terra satellite, the image shows fires burning south of the Orinoco River on March 26, 2024. 

“Brown areas in the northern part of the image are part of the Llanos, a mostly treeless savanna covered with seasonally flooded grasslands and cattle pastures. The green areas in the southern part of the image are rainforests that span the fringes of the Guiana Highlands, a plateau that covers the southern half of Venezuela,” said NASA.

Venezuela’s dry season

Venezuela faces a recurring environmental challenge each year as its dry season unfolds. Typically extending from December to March, this period is marked by a scarcity of rainfall, leading to drier landscapes vulnerable to fires. With the arrival of April and May, the heavy rains return, quenching the parched earth and helping to mitigate the spread of wildfires. 

However, the fire season in Venezuela, closely mirroring the dry season, reveals a concerning trend through satellite observations: a notable increase in fire activity.

Unprecedented fire season 

The 2024 fire season in Venezuela has been unprecedented and alarming, underscored by a critical deviation from the norm. The months leading up to the 2024 burning season experienced unusually warm and dry weather conditions, a situation that experts link to the broader impacts of global warming. 

Additionally, the ongoing El Niño event has been implicated in altering circulation and rainfall patterns across the region, further exacerbating the dry conditions. This combination of factors has left Venezuela’s landscapes exceedingly dry and, consequently, more susceptible to fires.

Record-breaking fire count in Venezuela

Data from NASA’s MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) sensor, as reported by Queimadas, a program of Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), has provided a stark illustration of the severity of the situation. In the early months of 2024, the number of fires detected in Venezuela reached a record-breaking level. 

Specifically, fire counts in January and February of 2024 surpassed 9,000 – a figure higher than any other recorded for these months since the advent of the MODIS record in the early 2000s. This stark data underscores the gravity of the fire season’s impact on Venezuela’s ecosystems, wildlife, and communities, signaling a dire need for attention and action.

The implications of such a severe fire season extend beyond the immediate environmental damage. The increase in wildfires can lead to significant air quality degradation, threatening public health, and can also result in the loss of habitat for countless species, further endangering the region’s biodiversity. Additionally, the economic ramifications for local communities, particularly those reliant on agriculture and forestry, can be devastating.

More about Venezuela 

Venezuela, officially known as the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is a country located on the northern coast of South America. It is characterized by a diverse landscape that includes tropical beaches, vast plains called llanos, dense rainforests, and towering mountains. 


Venezuela’s rich biodiversity is one of its most precious assets, with numerous species of animals and plants that are endemic to the region. The country also boasts significant oil reserves, which have historically been the backbone of its economy. However, in recent years, Venezuela has faced economic challenges and political instability, which have led to a humanitarian crisis, impacting the well-being of its population.

Food and culture

The country’s cultural heritage is a blend of indigenous, African, and Spanish influences, reflected in its music, dance, and cuisine. Traditional Venezuelan music includes genres like joropo, while the national dance is the vibrant and energetic salsa. Venezuelan cuisine is known for its flavor and variety, with arepas, a type of cornmeal cake, being one of the most popular dishes.


Venezuela is distinguished by its remarkably diverse landscape, ranging from the steamy Amazonian rainforests to the arid dunes of the Caribbean coast. At the heart of Venezuela’s diverse landscapes are the Andes Mountains, extending into the western part of the country. 

To the east of the Andes, the Orinoco River Delta spreads out, marking a vast network of waterways and lush mangrove forests. The Orinoco, one of South America’s longest rivers, is a lifeline for Venezuela, influencing much of its landscape and ecosystems.

Further south lies the Guiana Highlands, a unique geological formation featuring tepuis, which are table-top mountains with sheer cliffs and some of the oldest rock formations on Earth. These mountains are isolated ecosystems, each with its own unique wildlife. Angel Falls, the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall, cascades down one of these tepuis, drawing visitors from around the globe.

The central part of Venezuela is dominated by the Llanos, vast tropical grasslands that stretch across the country. These plains are flooded seasonally by heavy rains, transforming the landscape into a rich, biodiverse habitat for countless bird species, caimans, capybaras, and the elusive jaguar.

Venezuela’s northern edge is framed by more than 2,800 kilometers (about 1,740 miles) of coastline along the Caribbean Sea, featuring beautiful tropical beaches, coral reefs, and isolated islands like Los Roques Archipelago, a national park known for its clear waters, diverse marine life, and excellent conditions for water sports.

The Amazon rainforest covers the southern part of Venezuela, offering some of the planet’s most biodiverse and pristine rainforest areas. This region is largely unexplored and houses an incredible variety of wildlife, including exotic birds, monkeys, and the endangered jaguar.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory


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