Wildfires - Annual 1998


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Florida Fires

An unusually wet and mild winter associated with mature El Niño conditions promoted abundant under-brush growth in Florida. Beginning in the spring a persistent subtropical high pressure suppressed rain for several months. Severe drought conditions ensued in May and June, and the under-brush allowed wild fires to spread across much of the state. This multi-channel satellite image, taken on July 2, shows numerous fires on a line from Saint Augustine to Titusville Florida. The red spots are hot spots detected by one of the sensors. The areas on fire are actually smaller than these hot spots.

Forest Fires in Eastern Russia
High pressure persisted from May through September over eastern Russia. The large area of high pressure forced the jet stream southward over China, leaving eastern Russia, including Sakhalin Island without adequate rainfall. Several months of below normal rainfall created a severe drought.
The extremely dry conditions allowed hundreds of forest fires to burn out of control for many weeks. This satellite image, taken on August 2 by NOAA-12, vividly shows many large forest fires with streaks of smoke blown across Alaska and western Canada by the prevailing westerlies. Forest Fires in Eastern Russia, August 2, 1998
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Central American Fires
Sub-tropical high pressure settled over the region early in the spring season causing dry conditions throughout much of Central America and the southern third of the United States. As farmers in Mexico set fires to clear new lands for crop plantings, the extremely low moisture content of the surrounding vegetation made it difficult to control the fires. As a result, several large areas of wildfire developed.
Central American Wildfires
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This satellite image, taken by GOES-8, is a multispectral, false color composite which shows smoke and haze in yellow tones and hot spots in red tones. The smoke is seen spreading northward into the western Gulf of Mexico and into southern Texas where visibility was reduced to less than 2 miles.

Wildfires in Brazil
Dry conditions associated with mature El Niño conditions last winter is partially to blame for the widespread fires in many parts of Brazil. Many of the fires were started by farmers and loggers clearing land and spread as extremely dry conditions made it difficult to control their size.
On some days, GOES satellites captured several thousand fires burning simultaneously. The resultant smoky plumes covered millions of square miles and affected the health of many farmers and native peoples . This multispectral satellite image was taken on July 28 over the province of Mato Grosso in southwestern Brazil. Wildfires in Brazil
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Indonesian Fires
Fires in Indonesia
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As is typical during mature El Niño conditions, the monsoon rains over Indonesia were greatly depressed from June 1997 through May 1998. As a result, Indonesia experienced one of the worst fire outbreaks ever recorded. Smoke traveled for thousands of miles, affecting millions of people.
This satellite image, taken by the Japanese GMS satellite on April 7, 1998, is a multi-spectral composite. The image reveals a general smoky haze over much of the region (yellow tones).
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Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Wildfires for Annual 1998, published online December 1998, retrieved on July 28, 2014 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/fire/1998/13.