Meteorological Conditions in South East Asia: 9 August 1999

Meteorological Conditions in SouthEast Asia

9 August 1999


Thick haze from forest fires in Sumatra covered large parts of southeast Asia on Thursday. Jakarta’s residents wore masks to keep out a choking smog from forest fires in Sumatra late last week, as environmental monitors called for Indonesia to face an international court over what is becoming an annual disaster. The weather situation is very similar and the way the fires are developing is similar to 1997 and 1998s situation of health-threatening smog. Satellite images have found several hotspots in Sumatra and in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, each representing an area of fire. Severe fires this year, mainly lit by farmers and logging companies clearing land, caused a choking smog that smothered Indonesia’s neighbours, damaging tourism and sending visibility plunging.
The highest state of alert was declared in Riau and South Sumatra provinces, those which were most affected. Prevailing winds blowing from west to east carried the smog to Singapore and Malaysia.
The dry season in these regions may last until late October.

Two articles Experts call for Jakarta to face court over smog (9 August 1999) and Smog covers Singapore, Malaysia as Sumatra burns (7 August 1999) published by Planet Ark gives further detailed information to this topic.

Smoke plumes and haze were detected by OSEI on 6 August 1999.

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Fig.1. Smoke plumes and haze from areas of fire burning on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.

A special site dedicated to haze/smoke, entitled with the same name HAZE, gives further information to the current haze situation over South East Asia and SEAsia haze related sites.

The Meteorological Service of Singapore reports on 8 August 1999 for the South East Asian region: “Central Sumatra is again covered with clouds. Scattered showers over Kalimantan. Some hot spots were detected in northern and southern Sumatra. Isolated hot spots were also detected over Borneo”.

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Fig.2. Regional Surface Winds and Haze/Hot Spot Map, 8 August 1999
Forecasts of winds and surface pressure are available at

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.

maps for Western-Pacific
lately not available maps for Western-Pacific
lately not available maps for Western-Pacific
lately not available

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tomorrow this week this month

Fig.3-8. 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: 9 August 1999).

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 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 6 August 1999 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.9-14.  Output maps of the ASFWIS, 6 August 1999

A choking smog from burning rainforests returned to Southeast Asia this week, frightening citizens and exposing weak government efforts to tackle the problem as useless, regional analysts and environmentalists say. A thick haze descended on Singapore and parts of Malaysia late last week, reminiscent of the heavy smog that choked Southeast Asia in 1997 and 1998. Two articles about the above mentioned situation with the title “ASEAN urged to fight the smog or choke on it” and “Haze returns to Singapore, parts of Malaysia” were published by Planet Ark on 2 August 1999.

The latest NOAA14 satellite image shows hot spot locations in Sumatra. “Hot spots” can be identified as red dots.

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Fig.15. Latest NOAA Satellite image of Sumatra , 8 August 1999

The Indonesian Meteorological Agency Badan Meteorologi dan Geofisika publishs the Indonesia Daily Forecasting for 10 August 1999. For the representative selected areas metereological data are provided as follows:

Palembang Samarinda Ujung Pandang Dili Bandung Weather condition rain cloudy clear clear cloudy Temperature (min-max °C) 24-32°C 23-33°C 24-32°C 22-32°C 17-29°C Humidity (min-max %) 55-93 63-96 55-94 50-75 50-90

The Forest Fire Prevention and Control Project (FFPCP) in Palembang (Sumatra) provides a new fire overview map on 8 August 1999.

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Fig.16. Fire Overview Map for 8 August 1999 of the FFPCP project in Palembang

The newest fire overview map for the Integrated Forest Fire Management (IFFM) project in Kalimantan shows 7 hotspots on the 8 August 1999.

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Fig.17. Fire Overview Map for 8 August 1999 of the IFFM project in Samarinda

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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