Thursday, October 24, 2019

Modeling Smoke Pollution

Wildfire smoke in Indonesia is a common cause of air pollution in the country. The public health threat from wildfire smoke pollution is why the Smoke Policy Tool has been released to help model and visualize the impact of Indonesian fires on the health of the people living in Equatorial Asia.

The use of fire to clear land in Indonesia, particularly in the fuel-rich peatlands, often results in a smoky haze which carries toxic particulate matter throughout the region. The Smoke Policy Tool uses Google Earth Engine to model where the dangers of smoke haze carries the greatest threat to human health. This model considers such factors as land use, how smoke travels in the atmosphere, and the region's weather conditions. Using the tool it is possible to enter different variables to estimate the threat to human health of different wildfire scenarios. Users can choose different patterns of fire emissions, different weather conditions and different areas of interest (Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore) to model the effect of wildfire smoke.

The authors of the tool predict an average 36,000 annual premature deaths across Equatorial Asia in the next decade should fires continue at a similar rate as they have in the past. Most of these deaths are preventable. The authors hope that the Smoke Policy Tool will be used to determine where the public health threat from smoke is greatest. This information can then help policy makers prioritize where to prevent fires in order to save the most lives.

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