Forest Fires and Meteorological Conditions in South East Asia: 13 March 2000

Forest Fires and MeteorologicalConditions in South East Asia

13 March 2000

The Meteorological Service of Singapore reports on 13 March 2000 for the South East Asian region: “Few hot spots were observed in central Sumatra. Hot spots were not observed in Kalimantan due to the wet and very cloudy conditions.” Forecasts of winds and surface pressure are also available.

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Fig. 1. Regional Surface Winds and Haze/Hot Spot Map, 10 March 2000
(Source: Meteorological Service of Singapore)

The GFMC displays selected and daily updated global and Asia-Pacific Experimental Climate Prediction Center (ECPC)  Fire Weather Forecasts (Fig.2-7). These examples allow a quicklook and provide daily and weekly total forecasts, and forecasted monthly anomalies (for this month). For background information refer to the ECPC products description page.

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Fig.4.-9. Fire Weather Index (FWI) forecast for tomorrow (left), this week (center) and the predicted FWI anomaly for this month (right) for the Western Pacific and the Pacific Ocean. The daily forecast refers to 12:00 hrs noon UTC (Greenwich) time; the weekly total forecast and the monthly forecasted anomaly refer to 00:00 hrs UTC, which is local noon at dateline (180° longitude). Forecast time is 12:00 hrs noon UTC (Greenwich) corresponding to local evening time in mainland and insular SE Asia (updated: 2 March 2000, currently there is no update available).
(Source: ECPC)

The ASEAN Fire Weather Information System (ASFWIS) is a co-operation between ASEAN and the Canadian Forest Service. It provides maps describing the current fire weather situation in South East Asia. This system is based upon the Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System (CFFDRS) (for further infomation to the CFFDRS refer to ASFWIS). Studies have shown that the CFFDRS is applicable outside of Canada. Currently it is also used in a modified form in New Zealand (see References). In New Zealand the Fire Weather Indices Fine Fuel Moisture Code (FFMC) and the Initial Spread Index (ISI) represent the fire danger in the scrublands. The Duff Moisture Code (DMC) is also applicable in South East Asia, because it potentially describes the moisture state of the upper peat layers in peat and peat swamp forests. All three parameters may serve as a suitable indicator of forest fire danger in South East Asia.

According to the ASFWIS for 11 March 2000 these parameters show various fire weather conditions over South East Asia.

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Fine Fuel Moisture Code

Duff Moisture Code

Drought Code

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Initial Spread Index

Buildup Index

Fire Weather Index

Fig.10.-15.  Output maps of the ASFWIS, 11 March 2000
(Source: ASFWIS)

The ASEAN Haze Action Online provides the following information:

  • Monitoring: Hyperlinks to institutions involved in regional monitoring and prediction of fire and smoke haze
  • Haze News: ASEAN Transboundary Haze Update (updated daily)
  • Intranet: Information and possible participation in the ASEAN Haze Action Online Intranet Information Services (for associated registered participants)
  • Mobilization Plan: Model Fire Suppression Mobilization Plan
  • Inventory: Inventory and analysis of forest and land fire suppression capabilities
  • Haze Forum: Communication platform on fire and smoke-haze issues in the ASEAN region
  • Calendar: Fire and haze-related events can be identified by a search modus

The Forest Fire Prevention and Control Project (FFPCP) in Palembang (Sumatra) provides a fire overview map for the 10 March 2000.

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Fig.16. Fire Overview Map of the FFPCP project in Palembang, 10 March 2000
(Source: FFPCP)

The last available fire overview map (29 February 2000) of the Integrated Forest Fire Management (IFFM) project in Kalimantan shows 17 HTE’s (hot spots).

The Indonesian Meteorological Agency Badan Meteorologi dan Geofisika publishs the Indonesia Daily Forecasting for 14 March 2000. For the representative selected areas metereological data are provided as follows:

    Palembang Samarinda Bandung Weather condition rain cloudy rain Temperature (min – max °C) 22 – 32 23 – 32 20 – 29 Humidity (min – max %) 60 – 95 60 – 93 60 – 90

JAKARTA Post, 13 March 2000 (JP): “The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) said on Sunday the present government would lose some of its legitimacy if it failed to take comprehensive measures to stop forest fires. “The government of Gus Dur and Megawati could (still) have political legitimacy, but they would lack social legitimacy if they fail to stop the disaster,” Walhi said, referring to President Abdurrahman Wahid and Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri.
In a press statement signed by its head of advocacy affairs Longgena Ginting, Walhi suggested the government could revoke the licenses of errant timber firms, but said this action was by itself not enough to solve the underlying problem. “Revoking the licenses is just a short-term measure. There are more steps to be taken to prevent repeated forest fires,” Longgena said. He said the government had ignored the forest conversion rate that had reached between 0,75 and 1,1 million hectares per year only to serve market demands. “Many pulp and paper industries are built and are ready to operate, without enough forests to supply raw materials for their production activities,” Longgena lamented. Citing an example, he said Riau’s giant pulp and paper factory PT Riau Andalan Pulp (RAPP) had set its production capacity at 850,000 tons per year, but had only planted 83,000 hectare of forests on the total of 230,000 plots of land under its concession. “The company’s forests will be ready for use only in 2008, and in the meantime the company greatly depends on the old forests and will continuously exploit them. “It is not impossible that RAPP is also encouraging illegal logging activities to secure its supply of raw material,” Longgena remarked. Hundreds of hectares of forest in Riau have caught fire over the past week due to alleged uncontrolled forest exploitation. But two days of heavy rains have temporarily cleared away the haze from the region. Early morning visibility improved to five kilometers early Sunday from 300 meters two days earlier, but this is still half of the normal distance of 10 kilometers. The government declared the fires a national disaster after about 1,200 fires were detected in Kalimantan and Sumatra. Many fear a repeat of the 1997 catastrophe when an estimated 10 million hectares of forest were scorched, causing thick smog to blanket parts of Southeast Asia.
Walhi noted that forest fires had been common in the last 20 years. Two fires hit more than three million hectares of forest in East Kalimantan in 1982 and 1991. “To prevent the repeated incidents, the government has to take long-term measures,” Longgena suggested. According to Longgena, the government should review and if necessary suspended the policy on large-scale monoculture development and forest exploitation licenses. The government also needs to stop offering incentives and financial assistance to forest-exploitation businesses as well as set the maximum capacity of the national timber industry to under 20 million cubic meters per year, he added. “In brief, the government has to revamp the forest development policy,” he said. With the haze raising concerns in neighboring Singapore and Malaysia, President Abdurrahman has promised to do everything possible to prevent an ecological disaster on the scale of three years ago. (emf)”

JAKARTA (Reuters) – A thick blanket of smoke from raging fires in Borneo has reached “very dangerous” levels, just as the smoke clears in neighboring Sumatra, an Indonesian environmental watchdog said on Monday. Investigators expressed grave concern that the problem appeared to be getting worse in the western part of Borneo, particularly in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province. One government agency said Indonesia’s air pollution index had gone way above acceptable levels and daily life in and around the city of Pontaniak, the capital city of West Kalimantan province, had been seriously disrupted. It has gone over 300. It has even gone past 500,” said Rukasi from the Pontianak Environmental Supervisory Agency. ”That’s very, very dangerous.” A reading of over 300 on Indonesia’s air pollution index is regarded as ‘hazardous’. Normal fresh air will give a reading of below 50. Rukasi told Reuters that during the day the smog drifted over the coastline, but the worst problems were during the night. Although people have been advised to wear masks, many appeared to be unaware of the potential health hazard, he said. “It will come back along with night wind from the sea,” he said. “There is a thick smog hovering above from 10 p.m. until dawn.”
Indonesian television station SCTV reported that the airport in Pontianak, 465 miles north of Jakarta, was currently only able to operate after the smog cleared around 10 a.m., three hours later than its normal opening time.
Government offices were handing out masks to their workers, but not all were using them.
Plantation and logging companies have been blamed for the smog due to their practice of land-clearance using fire during the dry season.

In Sumatra, however, residents of Riau province breathed a sigh of relief on Monday as their air returned to almost normal levels after rains damped down fires which caused a week of choking smog. Only traces of smoke were left on Monday, an official said. “Currently, the air level has gone below 100. And the haze has very much decreased,” said Riadi Usman, from the Sumatra Environmental Supervisory Agency.

In Singapore and peninsular Malaysia, the air had cleared considerably. Riau province is adjacent to both and smog from fires there has repeatedly blown across the straits in recent years.

A meeting of environment ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations, of which all three countries are members, will be held in Brunei in April.

Singapore’s 24-hour Pollutants Standards Index air quality index stood back in the ‘good’ range, at a rating of 42 on Monday afternoon. An air-quality reading of 51-100 is rated moderate, while over 100 is regarded as unhealthy.

Summary: Although the current fire weather conditions do under normal conditions not favour extensive land clearing by fire or escaping wildfires in Indonesia, 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.

See also the IFFN Country Notes.

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