Slash and Burn Fires in West Africa Continue

©NASA

Fires in West Africa

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite detected hundreds of fires burning in various countries in western Africa on December 23, 2014.

The location, widespread nature, and number of fires suggest that these fires were deliberately set to manage land and most of the fires burn in grass or cropland. Farmers often use fire to return nutrients to the soil and to clear the ground of unwanted plants and have been using this method of clearing the land called "slash and burn" for thousands of years. Little smoke comes from the fires in the drier areas, but fires in the greener areas emit plumes of smoke. While fire may enhance crops and grasses for pasture, it also produce smoke that degrades air quality.

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC. Caption by Lynn Jenner Larger image

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