Agricultural fires continue to burn in the Indochina region as evidenced by this Aqua image taken on March 18, 2014. This natural-color image was taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, MODIS, aboard the Aqua satellite. More fires have been set in both Burma and Laos since the last image taken by MODIS on March 07. Actively burning areas, detected by MODIS's thermal bands, are outlined in red. Fire is used in cropland areas for pest and weed control and to prepare fields for planting. Crop residue burning helps farmers as it is a cheap and effective method to remove excess residue. If this excess residue is not removed, future seeding is prevented by shading out the next crop and facilitating mold growth. Crop residue burning also provides a short-term ash fertilization effect.
Although this seasonal burning helps farmers with their crops, it has detrimental effects as well. Vast amounts of smoke are released into the atmosphere causing air pollution and adversely affecting health, especially to those with respiratory concerns.
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team. Caption: NASA/Goddard, Lynn Jenner