Caring about the future

SmokeStorm - Forecasting and communicating wildland fire smoke effects
Coordinator - Ana Isabel Miranda
Programme - Prevenção e Combate a Incêndios Florestais
Execution dates - 2021-02-01 - 2024-01-31 (36 Months)
Funding Entity - FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
Funding for CESAM - 118300 €
Total Funding - 284621.25 €
Proponent Institution - Universidade de Aveiro
Participating Institutions
Associação para o Desenvolvimento da Aerodinâmica Industrial
Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera
Instituto de Engenharia Mecânica

Project Description
The main purpose of the SmokeStorm project is to develop, test and operationalize a web platform delivering near-real time smoke dispersion forecasts, as well as user friendly information on the potential effects on human health and visibility, to be used by Portuguese stakeholders. In fact, the Extreme Wildfires Events (EWE) recently registered in Australia, United States of America (USA), Greece and Portugal highlighted again the importance of wildfire smoke impacts in the society and economy. According to the USA media, 20000 estimated premature deaths now occur annually in the USA due to chronic wildfire smoke exposure. That is expected to double by the end of the century as tens of millions of people will get exposed to massive “smoke waves” under a climate change framework. In Portugal, the 2017 fires seriously changed the way population think about wildfires safety, with 112 persons dying and many others needing medical assistance due to smoke intoxications. Moreover, several air quality monitoring stations from the Portuguese networks registered, and continue registering, dangerous levels of atmospheric pollution due to wildfires smoke, without a clear risk communication to potentially exposed people and to health entities. In addition to the harmful human health impact, the smoke could decrease drastically the visibility and consequently endanger the suppression activities and emergency evacuations of the affected population. In the last decades, scientific developments regarding smoke dispersion and its impacts were performed using modelling systems, which include different components of wildfire behavior, such as fire spread, atmospheric emissions, smoke transport and chemistry. In Europe, the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) provides a fire database, with fire danger and fire detection forecasts based on satellite imagery, but it does not deliver information about smoke emission and dispersion. The European Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS) is monitoring emissions from fires using satellite observations too and is delivering smoke dispersion. Over the North America, the systems BlueSky and FireWork provide near-real time forecast information regarding wildfires spread and smoke dispersion. All these available systems are designed to provide information for large regions (continents) and do not have the needed spatial and temporal resolution to properly deliver useful information for local populations and stakeholders. Therefore, SmokeStorm will improve and combine different models for a better description of wildfire smoke events based on an approach, which will integrate fire spread, smoke emissions and dispersion numerical models, as well as mathematical functions to calculate human exposure, health effects and visibility reduction. The system will be applied to the 2017 EWE occurred in Portugal and the available data resources (e.g. satellite, radar data and ground measurements) will be used to evaluate its performance and better understand the several processes (physical and chemical) involved in the smoke events. Thereafter the system will be adapted to provide near-real time forecast information founded on a web user-friendly communication platform, which will be tested during the SmokeStorm project, in particular along the fire seasons events. The technical and scientific challenges addressed by SmokeStorm require a multi-disciplinary approach that will be supported by the expertise of the project consortium constituted by the University of Aveiro (UA), the Association for the Development of Industrial Aerodynamics (ADAI), the Mechanical Engineering Institute (IDMEC) and the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA). UA has proven expertise in air pollution modelling and its impacts on environment and human health; ADAI is specialized in research of the physical processes of fire behavior and fire safety; IDMEC has strong know-how in research and modelling of complex multi-phase fluid mechanics; and IPMA is the Portuguese authority for weather and climate. Moreover, the SmokeStorm consortium is composed by researchers with knowledge links that were built along more than three decades of forest fires research cooperation. The main SmokeStorm outcome will be a web communication platform providing near-real time smoke forecasts and impacts. The consortium will also dedicate a great attention and effort to disseminate and promote the knowledge developed in the project to the operational authorities, decision makers, populations at risk and scientific community. Besides the typical scientific dissemination indicators (e.g. conferences communications and peer reviewed journal papers) the consortium intends to create a webpage project, to organize workshops, seminars and specialized courses will be organized and, in particular, a guidebook will be produced on how to behave to mitigate the effects of forest fire smoke.

CESAM Funding: UIDP/50017/2020 + UIDB/50017/2020 + LA/P/0094/2020