J6.2 Air Pollution Episodes Associated with Prescribed Burns in Sydney Australia

Wednesday, 25 January 2017: 10:45 AM
Conference Center: Tahoma 2 (Washington State Convention Center )
Melissa A. Hart, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia; and G. Di Virgilio

Air pollution events associated with wildfires have been associated with extreme health impacts, including increased hospital admissions and death.  Prescribed burns are vital to reduce the severity of wildfires. However, if undertaken during unfavourable meteorological conditions, they too have the capacity to trigger extreme air pollution events. The Australian state of New South Wales has increased the annual average area treated by hazard reduction activities by 45%, in order to limit wildfire activity.

During prescribed burns, under certain meteorological conditions and fire characteristics, the Sydney air shed can experience elevated particulate matter concentrations, especially fine particulates (PM2.5) that occasionally exceed national air quality standards. Using pollutant and meteorological data for 2004-2015 obtained from sixteen monitoring stations in Sydney together with generalized additive model analyses and back trajectory modelling, we profiled the meteorological conditions influencing air quality during planned burns. This presentation will discuss the meteorological conditions associated with historic planned burns that have adversely affected air quality in Greater Sydney. The insights gained from this study will help improve prescribed burn scheduling in order to reduce the pollution risk to the community, while allowing fire agencies to conduct this important work.

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