In US, 2.4 million acres of forests are subject to prescribed fires, approximately 2/3 of which are in the Southeast, along with 3 million acres of agricultural burning. In the Southeast, prescribed burning is the largest source of PM2.5 emissions (20% or 210 Gg). A variety of studies suggests that biomass-burning generated PM is more toxic than other components. The use of prescribed burning for forest and crop health has economical and ecosystem-related benefits but must be weighed and managed with respect to the potential health and welfare impacts, and concerns over those activities leading to air quality non-attainment.
We have developed an advanced prescribed fire impact forecasting system -the HiRes II forecasting system, to provide daily forecasts of potential prescribed fire impacts based on meteorological and forest characteristics, which uses the WRF and CMAQ models. Forecast emissions are derived from analysis of historical fire applications based upon satellite imagery, burn permits and weather, along with satellite-enhanced fuel loads and laboratory and field measurements of emission factors for those fuels. The HiRes II forecasting products are currently used by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GaDNR) to provide official forecasts of air quality for public health protection, and are used by the Georgia Forest Commission (GaFC) in its 6 fire districts for prescribed burning management as well.
In this presentation, we will report our efforts to extend HiRes II to a newer version called HiRes-X (for extended and expanded). HiRes-X will have extended capabilities and expanded usage compared to HiRes II. The extension will aim to enhance the HiRes-X burn forecasting system using additional (and upcoming) Earth observations, as well as additional monitoring using inexpensive air quality sensors. Moreover, we will combine forecasts with satellite observations and air quality data, to develop source impact fields using a spatial CTM-CMB data assimilation method. The expansion will focus on expanding the burn forecasts to states outside of Georgia, particularly Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama. The expansion will also include providing forecasts of forest and crop prescribed burning-related air quality impacts to more local and state public health agencies in our forecast areas and to the CDC and its state partners on a real-time basis.
Forecasts will be provided publically via our website, and alerts of particularly high particulate matter or ozone levels will be sent out, specifically to health agencies. For this, we are redesigning our website to disseminate the HiRes-X forecasting products in an interactive way. The new website will use webgis technologies to display the forecasting products, real time and historical measurements, and earth observation datasets. It will overlap these datasets with geographical information, which can virtually show forecasted air pollution impacts on sensitive places. This will enhance the use of our products by fire and air quality managers in the Southeast.