Smoke gets in your eyes

Smoke from wildfires can have a serious health impact for some members of the public, even if they are far from the flames. Scion science is supporting the response to the Port Hills fire burning in Canterbury, which is generating smoke that has travelled as far north to Rangiora and south to Ashburton.

Scion’s Dr Tara Strand has been developing smoke forecasting methods for some time, and now she’s putting that research into action by generating smoke forecasts for the Port Hills fire.

Tara is using computer modelling to show how smoke will move around Canterbury over a 72-hour period. This information can help vulnerable people and those with respiratory problems to avoid smoke which can trigger health problems like asthma attacks.

She says “The model uses data from weather conditions and fire activity to determine where the smoke will spread. Those factors regularly change, so it’s important for anyone with respiratory issues to stay up-to-date with the latest forecasts.”

The forecasts are posted as videos and show how the smoke will move over time and change in intensity. Tara says “Health issues start to arise when smoke particulates exceed an average of 35 µg/m3 per hour. This information helps people to make informed decisions about which areas to avoid and when.”

The forecast for Canterbury is not expected to reach a level dangerous to public health in the next 72 hours unless the fire intensity increases.

The forecasts are updated every two to three days and will be posted to the Scion Youtube channel

Wednesday 22 February smoke forecast: