The unusual dry and hot conditions in Central
America and Mexico have resulted in many fires throughout
the region during the 2003 dry season. All of these fires
are set by farmers preparing their fields. Under the current
dry conditions, these fires escape into the surrounding
forest with devastating results. Normally the fire situation
gets serious around May, this year it started in March with
(statistically) another 2 months to go without any rain!
There was a brief reprieve in the end of March when most
places received good rainfall, but since then it has been
dry countrywide. Since mid April forest fires are again
threatening Belize's forests. Rains started in the last
week of May, outing most fires.
Particularly at risk in Belize is the area affected
by Hurricane Iris
in 1991. This mainly as the result of the large mass
of dry, combustible material. The 1992 dry season
was relatively benign and relatively few forest fires
erupted in the areas affected by the hurricane. 1993
was not so lucky. Early May a milpa fire near Golden
Stream village escaped into the Golden
Stream Corridor Preserve (Yaax Che) and quickly
blossomed into a massive forest fire that crept northward
into the hills of the Columbia
River Forest Reserve. The satellite image
to the left was taken on May 9, 2003, 16.45hr local
time. Two smoke plumes are clearly visible in the
Golden Stream/Columbia River areas. More on the east
coast the fainter plume of the Stann Creek fire (picture
top of page) is just visible. The Columbia River Forest
Reserve Fire raged for more than three weeks. Rains
starting around the 27th of May put an end to it.
For images that are updated every few hours, go to this
Colorado State "Real-time
Satellite Rainfall and Fire Products for Central America"
about fires in Belize's forest ecosystems.
the three March 2003 images as a powerpoint presentation
here to see an animation (gif) depicting fires (Guatemala
only) in the period 10 January 2003 - March 24, 2003.
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