Toxic smoke from forest fire blankets Borneo

The toxic smoke from the raging forest fires in Sumatra and Borneo had drifted across the Malay Peninsula and Singapore. It is feared to affect some parts of the Southern Philippines and Visayas.

NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) had captured September 15 a thick smoke haze blanketing Borneo.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of Borneo on September 15, 2019. Photo: NASA

“Satellites have detected evidence of fires burning in this region throughout much of August,” NASA said. But the number and intensity of the fire had increased early in September.

Oil palm areas

Another image from Landsat 9 satellite’s Operational Land Imager (OLI) had shown much of the fire came from a number of oil palm areas in southern Borneo.

Indonesian government investigators had blamed the massive fire on the land clearance burning to make way for the new oil palm plantations.

Environmental activists blamed the palm oil companies for starting the fire. These companies, however, hired contractors to do the job to avoid the blame.

Carbon Emissions

Satellite imaging shows a large number of organic carbon emissions over Borneo in September.  Most of the carbons came from the burning peatland areas. Fire in peatland areas could trigger the release of vast amounts of stored carbons into the air.

This map shows organic carbon data from September 17, 2019, from the GEOS forward processing (GEOS-FP) model, which assimilates information from satellite, aircraft, and ground-based observing systems. Image: NASA

To put out the fire, the Indonesian government had already deployed water-bombing aircraft.

Forest fire is a regular occurrence in Southeast Asia every year. But this year’s fire is the worst in four years.

The Indonesian toxic smoke could affect Mindanao, and Visayas areas due to southwest monsoon, locally known as Habagat. (Rick Pearth for Mindanao Sun/ Featured Image: NASA)

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