On August 19, 2014, an unusually cloud-free day at the height of the Amazonian dry season, several fires were burning in Brazil. You can see the broad smoke pall in this photo taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Against the backdrop of the dark green rainforest, several fires follow the major highway BR 163. The fires were set to clear patches of forest for agriculture, a process that reveals red-brown soils. See the long line of newly cleared patches that snakes east from BR 163 towards the remote valley of Rio Crepori.
Extensive deforested areas in Brazil’s state of Mato Grosso appear in tan across the top of the image. Fires show the advance of deforestation into the state of Pará, which is now second after Mato Grosso in terms of deforestation acreage.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.