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Sumatra Has Been On Fire for Over a Month

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Peat fires in Sumatra have been burning for weeks, producing thick clouds of haze and smoke. Deliberately set to clear land for palm oil, the fires have damaged air quality to the point where the local government has declared a state of emergency.

Peat fires produce dense smoke when they burn. The fires are outlined in red in this image of Sumatra taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite. This image has around 400 fire detections.


Some of the worst fires were deliberately set in the Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu biosphere reserve in order to clear land for palm oil plantations. Using fires to clear land is illegal in Indonesia, but happens anyway. The fires started in February of this year have already resulted in the country declaring a state of emergency because of poor air quality.

The carbon monoxide (CO) plume from the peat fires are also visible from NASA's AIRS instrument. The white arrow points so Sumatra, where the carbon monoxide levels are up to 320 parts per billion (ppb), way off the accompanying colour scale that tops out at 160 ppb.


Images credit NASA. Read more about the fire on the Earth Observatory.