Forest Fires and Meteorological Conditions in South East Asia: 15 March 2000

Forest Fires and MeteorologicalConditions in South East Asia

15 March 2000

The Meteorological Service of Singapore reports on 15 March 2000 for the South East Asian region: “Hot spots were observed in central Sumatra and Kalimantan. Cloudy cover over central Sumatra.” Forecasts of winds and surface pressure are also available.

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Fig. 1. Regional Surface Winds and Haze/Hot Spot Map, 15 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.2.-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 14 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, 14 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 15 March 2000.

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Fig.16. Fire Overview Map of the FFPCP project in Palembang, 15 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).

Forest Fires In Indonesia (OCHA Situation Report No.1, 14 March 2000)


1. Ever since the start of the dry season at the end of February 2000, forest fires have been rapidly spreading out of control in Sumatra and West Kalimantan in Indonesia. By 5 March 2000 more than 780 hot spots had been located over Sumatra, according the Meteorological Service Singapore. Reportedly, most of the fires were triggered by illegal burning of plantations and forests for land clearance.

2. The most affected area is Riau province on the east coast of Sumatra, facing Singapore, followed by West Kalimantan province and Central Kalimantan province. According to the national authorities, in Pekanbaru, capital of Riau province, the air pollution index has registered levels high above those considered hazardous to human health. Clouds of smoke and some haze have been billowing over the area. Although recent rainfall has doused some of the fires and improved visibility, the situation is still very alarming.

3. Indonesia has experienced forest fire disasters before, the worst of which occurred in the autumn of 1997 during the dry weather fostered by El Nino, when smog affected several South East Asian countries. The disaster caused a wide range of problems including haze-related illnesses. A number of flights had to be cancelled and there were collisions at sea. The tourist industry suffered, and the destruction of forests and death of wild animals had devastating environmental consequences. After the disaster, Indonesia has taken steps to tighten up its environmental laws. In August last year, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) also adopted a “zero-burning” policy and urged all countries concerned to implement the necessary laws and regulations with immediate effect in order to enforce this major decision aimed at controlling transboundary environment pollution caused by forest and land fires.

Expected Developments

4. According to the Singapore Meteorological Service, the present dry weather is not expected to be prolonged as increased shower activities should occur in the region from time to time until May 2000. This is likely to result in an improvement in the current fire situation. During the period June to October, which is traditionally the dry Southwest Monsoon season in the region, periods of increased fire activities can be expected when dry weather conditions prevail.

National Response

5. The Indonesian Government has been monitoring the development of the disaster with the help of satellite data. The Government declared a State of Emergency on 8 March 2000 and is taking steps to halt the spread of fires by means of field operations and law enforcement. Investigations are being carried out into companies with interests in the places where the hot spots have been located. The Government has also released the amount of IDR 100 million (USD 14,000) to support the fire suppression activities, and has threatened to revoke the licenses of errant logging and plantation owners. Local authorities have advised the public to stay indoors until mid-morning when the smog thins, and have distributed cotton masks to the population of hazardous areas.

International Response

6. ASEAN has taken Fire Suppression Mobilization measures in the different districts of Riau province, in an attempt to contain the spread of forest fires and smoke haze. These mobilization measures are part of the broader Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Land and Forest Fire and Haze in the whole of Sumatra and West Kalimantan.

7. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is in close contact with the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Jakarta, Indonesia and will revert with further information if the situation warrants it.

8. No request for international assistance has been received by OCHA to date.

9. This situation report, together with further information on ongoing emergencies, is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at:

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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