Price, OF; Williamson, GJ; Henderson, SB; Johnston, F; Bowman, DMJS (2012). The Relationship between Particulate Pollution Levels in Australian Cities, Meteorology, and Landscape Fire Activity Detected from MODIS Hotspots. PLOS ONE, 7(10), e47327.
Smoke from bushfires is an emerging issue for fire managers because of increasing evidence for its public health effects. Development of forecasting models to predict future pollution levels based on the relationship between bushfire activity and current pollution levels would be a useful management tool. As a first step, we use daily thermal anomalies detected by the MODIS Active Fire Product (referred to as "hotspots"), pollution concentrations, and meteorological data for the years 2002 to 2008, to examine the statistical relationship between fire activity in the landscapes and pollution levels around Perth and Sydney, two large Australian cities. Resultant models were statistically significant, but differed in their goodness of fit and the distance at which the strength of the relationship was strongest. For Sydney, a univariate model for hotspot activity within 100 km explained 24% of variation in pollution levels, and the best model including atmospheric variables explained 56% of variation. For Perth, the best radius was 400 km, explaining only 7% of variation, while the model including atmospheric variables explained 31% of the variation. Pollution was higher when the atmosphere was more stable and in the presence of on-shore winds, whereas there was no effect of wind blowing from the fires toward the pollution monitors. Our analysis shows there is a good prospect for developing region-specific forecasting tools combining hotspot fire activity with meteorological data.