Survey fligths by the Head of the GFMC over Myanmar, Thailand and Lao during the last week of February 1999 showed extended fire activities in these countries. Most fires are (a) land-use fires (rice paddy burning, shifting cultivation), and (b) large wildfires burning in dry deciduous or semi-deciduous forests.
Fig.1. Regional Surface Winds and Haze/Hot Spot Map, 2 March 1999
(Source: Meteorological Service of Singapore)
The current weather reports from the Indonesian Meteorological Agency Badan Meteorologi dan Geofisika forecasts rainy and cloudy conditions for Indonesia with maximum temperatures between 29°C (Bandung), 33°C (Samarinda), 30°C (Ujung Pandang) and 31°C (Dili), 32°C (Palembang) and relative humidity ranging from 50% up to 97%. The general forecast for whole Indonesia is rainy and cloudy.
The Meteorological Service of Singapore reports on 1 March 1999 for the South East Asian region: “No hot spots were observed in Kalimantan or Sumatera. The region is generally clear of smoke haze.” “Latest reports and analyses have shown that the El Niño event which has brought the region severe dry condition since mid 1997 has weakened considerably. Areas of colder-than-normal sea surface temperature have appeared over parts of central Pacific Ocean, which when taken together with other information points to an increased chance of a La Niña event later in the year”. The Meteorological Service states for the near future that: “rainfall in the region is expected to be near or above normal for the next few months. However it should be noted that many parts of Indonesia (Kalimantan and parts of Sumatera) would be in their traditional dry season in the next few months. As such, though extensive and prolonged smoke haze is unlikely for this period, occasional short periods (e.g. a few days) of slight to moderate haze in a more localised manner remain probable”.
The Forest Fire Prevention and Control Project (FFPCP) project in Palembang records 45 hotspots on 28 February 1999 with a detection threshold of 320 K in Sumatera. The burning activities detected by the NOAA AVHRR sensor are land clearing fires. Attention must be given in these areas to prevent the escape of these land-use fires into surrounding vegetation.
Fig.2. Fire Overview Map for 28 February 1999 of the FFPCP project in Palembang
Summary: Although the current fire weather conditions do under normal conditions not favour extensive land clearing by fire or escaping wildfires, the consequences of the large wildfires of 1997-98 must been taken into consideration. These fires had caused extensive degradation of primary and secondary forests along with the spreading of “alang-alang” (Imperata cylindrica) grasslands. These grasslands facilitate the spread of uncontrolled fires over large areas. It can be predicted that in November-December with only moderate fire danger new vegetation fires will occur.