GFMC: Meterological Conditions and Fire in South East Asia

Meteorological Conditions and Firein South East Asia

20 March 2002

Modis Land Rapid Response System

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 These images were acquired by the Moderate-resolution
Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on 15  March 2002
showing fires burning in  South East Asia. For details see:
and image search support at:

UPDATE – Forest fires ring Malaysia Grand Prix track         

KUALA LUMPUR/SINGAPORE – Malaysia sent firefighters to douse forest fires near its Grand Prix race track last week, as scientists in nearby Singapore said smoke from blazing Indonesian forests will keep clouding regional skies. A haze shrouded the Sepang track where the Malaysian Grand Prix Formula One race will be run on Sunday, but did not interfere with drivers’ practice, or reduce spectator visibility. A Reuters reporter saw at least 10 fire engines parked on the highway near Sepang, 40 km south of the capital Kuala Lumpur, while officers battled to douse burning  trees and smoking ground. Drought in parts of Southeast Asia sparked concerns in the region as rainfall dropped to about half the normal levels and open burning and peat fires have plagued the area over the past few weeks. Across the Strait of Johor from Malaysia, air pollution over Singapore from fires in Indonesian and Malaysian forests was expected to worsen in coming days if current
dry weather conditions persisted.”From what we’ve seen in the last few days we can say the fire in (the Indonesian island of) Sumatra is getting worse, and the smoke coming up from the fire is getting bigger,” said Lim Kim Hwa, a scientist from the National University of Singapore’s Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing.  He added that fires in the Malaysian state of Johor, just north of Singapore, had contributed to increased air pollution in the city-state, where the 24-hour Pollutant   Standards Index (PSI) hit the top end of the “good” range last week. “If the dry weather does not change and the rain does not fall on Johor’s forests, the haze situation in Singapore may continue or even deteriorate in the next one, twodays,” Lim told Reuters. Afternoon showers did hit Singapore last week.

Singapore’s Ministry of Environment representative Chua Kiam Pheng said the PSI reading, which measures air quality on a scale of zero to 500, stood at 50 last week morning. “We are still in the “good” range,” he told Reuters. The PSI hit 163 in 1997 when forest fires zoomed through Southeast Asia. Across the Strait of Malacca from Singapore on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, smoke from fires has been bad enough in recent weeks to prompt local authorities to close schools and distribute gas masks to residents. Health officials in the Sumatran city of Medan – Indonesia’s third largest city which is about 500 km (400 miles) east of Singapore – have advised residents to stay indoors after fires increased carbon monoxide levels. In Malaysia, where the haze has reached the capital Kuala Lumpur, poor rains and plunging reservoir levels in the western state of Malacca – a tourist destination have pushed authorities to introduce water rationing. But the rationing will not affect hotels and other tourist outlets, Bernama news agency said. Fire and Rescue Department spokesman Norizan Sulaiman was quoted in the New Straits Times saying fires had been put out in more than half the 1,011 hectares of  forest, peat and bush that had caught fire so far this month in the states of Selangor, Perak, Kedah and Pahang. Nearly 400 firemen, along with police and air force personnel, have been involved in operations to put out the fires. Smoke also obscured views of the lush hills surrounding Kuala Lumpur for tourists visiting the Petronas Twin Towers, the world’s tallest building, and the city’s skyline was reduced to murky grey. There is a general ban on burning, even barbecues, with exceptions made for cremations and destroying animal carcasses.
Story by Simon Cameron-Moore and Maria Golovnina, Planet Ark

The TOMS Global Aerosol Hot Spots Page provides screened close-ups of regions with active fires and smoke emissions, displayed in the following table.

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13 March 2002 14 March 2002 15 March 2002

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16 March 2002 17 March 2002 18 March 2002

Smoke over South East Asia.
(Source: TOMS Global Aerosol Hot Spots Page)

The Meteorological Service of Singapore reports on 19 March 2002 for the South East Asian region: ” Scattered showersthunderstorms affected the region .A few hotspots were detected in Sumatra  .” Forecasts of winds and surface pressure are also available.

Regional Surface Winds and Haze/Fire Map, 19 March 2002
(Source: Meteorological Service of Singapore)

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NOAA-AVHRR 12 Hot Spot Detection on Sumatra and Kalimatan, 19 March 2002.
This Daylight picture is a composite from infrared and visible satellite imageries.
Colours are added to help identify and highlight various features. Generally,
smoke haze shows up in shades of yellow which may appear in streaks fanning
out from a small source or as large fuzzy patches. “Hot spots” can be identified
as red dots. As the imageries are taken from satellites, overlying clouds if present
will invariably obscure areas with smoke haze and hot spots. Strong reflection of sunlight
can also give rise to reddish shades over sea areas. These are not related to hot spots.
(Source: Meteorological Service of Singapore)

Review of Regional Weather and Smoke Haze
Some pockets of dry weather have started to develop over northern and central Sumatra and over a larger part of the northern half of Borneo in January as the northeast monsoon rain-belt progresses further south of the Equator over Southern Sumatra and Java island. The number of hot spots, however, was small on most days.
(SOURCE: Meteorological Service of Singapore)

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Fig.1: Daily Hot Spots Counts over Kalimantan in February 2002
(Source: Meteorological Service of Singapore)

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Fig.2: Daily Hot Spots Counts over Sumatra in February 2002
(Source: Meteorological Service of Singapore)

Weather and Haze Outlook
Tropical Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures (SSTs) were near normal to slightly above normal in September 2001. Most forecasts of advanced centres indicate SSTAs to increase slightly to above normal (+ 0.5º C ) by the end of the first quarter of 2002. This could indicate the possibility of the onset of a weak El Nino episode in the second half of 2002.
The region is expected to transit from the current Southwest Monsoon Season to inter-monsoon conditions in October and November. While brief periods of dry weather could still occur, particularly over southern Sumatra and Kalimantan in October 2001, most parts of the region should begin to experience increased thundery shower activities in the coming months. These should bring about an end the potential of any smoke haze in the region for the rest of 2001.

The Meteorological Service of Singapore provides rainfall-record charts for selected locations in Sumatra and Kalimantan with information about the mean annual rainfall and the actual monthly and weekly records for last year.

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Rainfall charts for Sumatra and Kalimantan
(Source: Meteorological Service of Singapore)

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

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tomorrow this week next month

Fire Weather Index (FWI) forecast for tomorrow (left), this week (center) and the predicted
FWI total for next month (right) for the Western Pacific (1-3) and the Pacific Ocean (4-6) regions.
The weekly total forecast and the monthly forecasted total 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.
(Source: ECPC Fire Weather Index Forecast)

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 18 March 2002  these parameters show various fire weather conditions over South East Asia:

Fine Fuel Moisture Code

Duff Moisture Code

Drought Code

Initial Spread Index

Buildup Index

Fire Weather Index

Output maps of the ASFWIS, 18 March 2002
(Source: ASFWIS)

The Forest Fire Prevention and Control Project (FFPCP)
The Forest Fire Prevention and Control Project (FFPCP) in Palembang (Sumatra) closed on 30 November 2001. The South Sumatra Forest Fire Management Project (SSFFMP) is expected to start in June 2002 and will continue the work of FFPCP.
Meanwhile the daily fire map (hot-spot) and monthly drought index for Sumatra will continue to be updated from time to time. The last map is dated 19 March 2002.

Fire overview map for Sumatra (19 March 2002)
(Source: FFPCP)

Haze Prevention Group
The industrial initiative to combat haze in SE Asia started to develop a website in February 2002. The website will include information about the objectives of this industrial initiative and the projects that are implemented to reduce wildfires and haze in pilot projects in Indonesia.

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 Integrated Forest Fire Management Project (IFFM) in Samarinda provides regulary updated  hot spots maps of Kalimantan.

For further information, please also have a look to the current and archived IFFN Country Notes.

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