A surveillance and early-warning system for electrical storms in the northern Greater Hinggan Mountains began yesterday to look out for fires in China’s largest forest zone.
“The project, the first of its type ever launched throughout China’s key forestry regions, is designed to detect any fires that break out in a semidiameter of 1 kilometre,” an expert with the Beijing-based Forest Fire Control Office under the State Forestry Administration (SFA), confirmed.
“Forestry authorities would be able to react against devastating fires as soon as possible in any pathless and unfrequented virgin forests, such as the Greater Hinggan Mountains with the help of the system,” the SFA’s expert surnamed Yan said.
Compared with conventional helicopter patrol and human lookouts, meteorologists say the new system will be able to monitor larger expanses of forests and generate more accurate reports for forest fire prevention and countermeasures to be taken.
The surveillance and early warning service systems are jointly built by North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and the northeastern Heilongjiang Province, at a cost of more than 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million dollars), local sources said yesterday.
They say the entire system consists of 15 stations monitoring lightning, eight automatically operated weather stations and data processing centres. The monitoring stations will work with existing remote-sensing surveillance systems to predict and locate potential lightning strikes, assess the wind scale, soil dryness and other conditions for the data processing centre to figure out the risk for forest fires.
“To make the system work well, more than 100 million yuan (US$12 million) has also been poured into the project to build roads and watchtowers around the forest zone except the cost of the monitoring system itself,” said an SFA official.
Running north to south through the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Heilongjiang Province, the Greater Hinggan Mountains area is the largest virgin forest-covered region in China. Of the region’s total 290,000 square kilometre area, 237,000 are covered with forest. However, the zone is prone to fire disasters and experts say nearly 70 per cent of the fires reported between spring and autumn are caused by lightning strikes.