Global Fire Observations and MODIS NDVI

  • Released Tuesday, October 18th, 2011
  • Updated Tuesday, November 14th, 2023 at 12:01AM
  • ID: 3868

This visualization leads viewers on a narrated global tour of fire detections beginning in July 2002 and ending July 2011. The visualization 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 inhibit 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 earlier this spring are visible.

More information on the Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) is available at

Colortable showing MODIS fire pixels.  The number colorized is MODIS MCD14ML T21 Brightness temperature minus the T31 Brightness temperature.

Colortable showing MODIS fire pixels. The number colorized is MODIS MCD14ML T21 Brightness temperature minus the T31 Brightness temperature.

Colortable showing MODIS' 16 Day Composite NDVI

Colortable showing MODIS' 16 Day Composite NDVI


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio


This visualization is related to the following missions:


This visualization can be found in the following series:

Datasets used in this visualization

  • Terra and Aqua NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI))

    ID: 633
    Collected with MODIS NASA June 2002 through July 2011
  • Terra and Aqua Fire Location

    ID: 496
    Collected with MODIS June 2002 through July 2011

    Credit: Fire location data courtesy of MODIS Rapid Response Project (NASA/GSFC and University of Maryland -

    See all pages that use this dataset
  • Terra and Aqua Ice and Snow (Pixel Reliability (value=2))

    ID: 714
    Analysis Collected with MODIS

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