GFMC: Meteorological Conditions and Fire in South East Asia: 18 July 2000

Meteorological Conditions and Firein South East Asia

18 July 2000

Smog disperses in Malaysia, health concerns linger
Smog over Malaysia sparked by forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia has started to disperse but health concerns linger. The visibility was one km last week, however the visibility has yet reached the normal eight to 10 km distance. Parts of Peninsula Malaysia, including the popular holiday resort of Penang, were blanketed by thick smog over the weekend, reviving memories of fires in 1997 which blanketed Singapore and Malaysia with smoke, causing health problems and damaging the tourism industry. An official at the Penang branch of the environment department said visibility was improving on the island, but concerns on health lingered. The Air Pollution Index (API) now reads “moderate”, but it is still unhealthy. Science, Technology and Environment Minister Law Hieng Ding said on Sunday the smog was temporary and there was no cause for alarm. Law said as of Saturday only three areas had reported Air Pollution Index (API) readings of above 100 while the rest reported either good or moderate readings. A reading of between zero and 50 is considered to be in the “good” range, 51 to 100 is “moderate” and above 100 is considered “unhealthy”. The release of API figures marked a policy shift by the government, which since last year banned public reporting of the smog pollution index for fear it would affect tourism. Indonesian plantation companies on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan have been accused of deliberately setting fires to clear land.
(Source: Planet Ark/Reuters News Service, 18 July 2000)

Another report entitled with Smog returns to Southeast Asia, Sumatra worst hit, published by the Environmental News Network/Reuters, shows that hazardous thick smog triggered by forest fires in Indonesia blanketed parts of Sumatra yesterday and reduced visibility in neighboring Malaysia. The pall, caused by deliberately set fires to clear land for plantations, raised fears of a return to the health crisis of 1997 when forest fire smoke covered several parts of Southeast Asia, triggering tourist cancellations by the thousands.

The Meteorological Service of Singapore reports on 17 July 2000 for the South East Asian region: “Hot spots were detected in central Sumatra. Moderate smoke haze in central, northern Sumatra, the Straits of Malacca and northern parts of Peninsula Malaysia. Isolated hot spots and smoke plumes were also detected in Borneo.” Forecasts of winds and surface pressure are also available.

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Regional Surface Winds and Haze/Fire Map, 17 July 2000
(Source: Meteorological Service of Singapore)

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Hot spots (red dots) and smoke haze detected by NOAA 14 in central and northern Sumatra and western Kalimantan on 17 July 2000
(Source: Meteorological Service of Singapore)

The same meteorological service also provides rainfall-record charts for selected locations in Kalimantan and Sumatra  with information about the mean annual rainfall and the actual monthly and weekly records for this year.

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Rainfall charts for Kalimantan and Sumatra
(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 next month). For background information refer to the ECPC products description page.

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Fire Weather Index (FWI) forecast for tomorrow (left), next week (center) and the predicted FWI total for next 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 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 (updated: 18 July 2000).
(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 July 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

Output maps of the ASFWIS (update 18 July 2000)

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) provided a fire overview map for 16 July 2000.

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Fire Overview Map for 16 July 2000 for Sumatra
(Source: FFPCP)

The Integrated Forest Fire Management Project (IFFM) in Samarinda (East Kalimantan) detected 47 hot spots on 17 July 2000.

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Hot spot map of Kalimantan for 17 July 2000
(Source: IFFM)

The Southwest Monsoon has set in and with it the onset of generally dry weather over Singapore and the surrounding region. As the south-west winds increase in strength and persistency in the next 3 to 4 months, periods of dry weather can be expected from time to time. With each spell of relatively dry weather, increased forest fires and accompanying hotspots are likely. However, the prolonged widespread dry weather experienced in 1997 as a result of the strong El Nino is not likely to develop this year. As the current La Nina continues to weaken for the rest of the year, weather conditions are expected to return to normal. Hence in the current Southwest Monsoon season, while weather conditions are expected to be generally dry, occasional widespread squally pre-dawn and early morning showers are expected in the region on about 3 to 4 times per month between May and October. The occurrence of the widespread showers should help to prevent the recurrence of a similar 1997 widespread and prolonged smoke haze episode in the region. (Source: Meteorological Service of Singapore)

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

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