Fires in Sumatra detected by NASA’s MODIS sensor. Courtesy of Google Earth and NASA.
Fires set for land clearing in Indonesia triggered health warnings in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of Malaysia last week, reports the Associated Press.
Data from NASA shows dozens of fires burns in and around plantations as well as logged-over forest areas on the island of Sumatra. Haze from the fires pushed the air pollution index above 100, well beyond healthy levels last weekend, but the smoke has since moved northward into Thailand returning air quality to “moderate.”
Haze typically worsens during the height of the dry season in August and September. Air pollution is especially bad in dry years, usually coinciding with El Niño. Some of the worst fires and haze on record occurred during the 1982-1983 and 1997-1998 El Niño. Millions of hectares of land burned during those episodes, causing billions of dollars in damage.
All ASEAN member nations except Indonesia have signed an agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which commits signatories to monitor and combat fires.
Fires in Sumatra detected by NASA satellites. Courtesy of Google Earth and NASA.