This dataset leads viewers on a narrated global tour of fire detections beginning in July 2002 and ending July 2011. The dataset also includes vegetation and snow cover data to show how fires respond to seasonal changes. The tour begins in Australia in 2002 by showing a network of massive grassland fires spreading across interior Australia as well as the greener Eucalyptus forests in the northern and eastern part of the continent. The tour then shifts to Asia where large numbers of agricultural fires are visible first in China in June 2004, then across a huge swath of Europe and western Russia in August, and then across India and Southeast Asia through the early part of 2005.
It moves next to Africa, the continent that has more abundant burning than any other. MODIS observations have shown that some 70 percent of the world's fires occur in Africa alone. In what's a fairly average burning season, the visualization shows a huge outbreak of savanna fires during the dry season in Central Africa in July, August, and September of 2006, driven mainly by agricultural activities but also by the fact that the region experiences more lightning than anywhere else in the world. The tour shifts next to South America where a steady flickering of fire is visible across much of the Amazon rainforest with peaks of activity in September and November of 2009. Almost all of the fires in the Amazon are the direct result of human activity, including slash-and-burn agriculture, because the high moisture levels in the region prevent natural fires from occurring.
It concludes in North America, a region where fires are comparatively rare. North American fires make up just 2 percent of the world's burned area each year. The fires that receive the most attention in the United States, the uncontrolled forest fires in the West, are less visible than the wave of agricultural fires prominent in the Southeast and along the Mississippi River Valley, but some of the large wildfires that struck Texas early spring 2011 are visible.