A World on Fire: It’s All in the Image
Guest Essay by Kip Hansen
The latest scare story flashing across the ‘Net from nearly every main stream media outlet is the frightening image of a world on fire released by NASA yesterday. Headlines abound as the story spreads like wildfire:
Anthony Watts covered the original release of this story here at WUWT.
My wife and I spent over ten years on the island of Hispaniola, where both Haiti and the Dominican Republic are found. I am personally very familiar with their agricultural system having organized several humanitarian projects that furthered agriculture there.
I was surprised by the image presented by NASA:
In the image above, splashed across the front pages of the world yesterday, we see, circled in white, Hispaniola, covered in red — indicating fires (day and night) on 22 August 2018.
Always alert to bias in journalism covering science issues, I took a bit of a closer look…literally….
In a close up of the island of Hispaniola shows how many fires and the extent of the fires — I’ve circled every one in white — had I not, they would be too small to see.
It is August and time to burn and then harvest the sugarcane fields….the pungent smoke will be rising from fields all over the DR and blowing on the gentle trade winds wafting a distinctive burnt sugar aroma across the island.
“Sugarcane is harvested by hand and mechanically. Hand harvesting accounts for more than half of production, and is dominant in the developing world. In hand harvesting, the field is first set on fire. The fire burns dry leaves, and chases away or kills any lurking venomous snakes, without harming the stalks and roots. Harvesters then cut the cane just above ground-level using cane knives or machetes.”
In an earlier career, I designed and built web sites for major sporting events and by necessity learned the fine art of photoshopping to improve the quality and appearance of images on the web. One problem almost impossible to overcome, especially back in the 1990s, is “monitor pixel size” — the size of individual dots on your computer monitor. Monitors are vastly improved today, but the problem persists for web graphics. This is the true source of A World On Fire.
When NASA wants to present an image of where the fires are, each fire must be at least one pixel in size — you can’t really make the data point any smaller. When presenting the whole world view, each little burning field requires one bright red pixel. Thus, the three dozen burning cane fields in the Dominican Republic, when shown on the world map, cover the entire island of Hispaniola.
It’s all in the pixels.
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Author’s Comment Policy:
I am not a web artist by any means — I did once have our web team’s “artist” dismissed because I had a better eye for web images than he did and thus had to re-do all of his work. Today’s web graphics are a dream compared to the 1990s, when we were restricted to the 216 “web safe colors”.
Lesson: It always pays to take a closer look.
Start with “Kip…” if you are speaking to me.
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