The Summer 2019-2020 Wildfires in East Coast Australia and Their Impacts on Air Quality and Health in New South Wales, Australia.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2021, 18, (7), pp. 1-27
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The 2019–2020 summer wildfire event on the east coast of Australia was a series of major wildfires occurring from November 2019 to end of January 2020 across the states of Queensland, New South Wales (NSW), Victoria and South Australia. The wildfires were unprecedent in scope and the extensive character of the wildfires caused smoke pollutants to be transported not only to New Zealand, but also across the Pacific Ocean to South America. At the peak of the wildfires, smoke plumes were injected into the stratosphere at a height of up to 25 km and hence transported across the globe. The meteorological and air quality Weather Research and Forecasting with Chemistry (WRF-Chem) model is used together with the air quality monitoring data collected during the bushfire period and remote sensing data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) satellites to determine the extent of the wildfires, the pollutant transport and their impacts on air quality and health of the exposed population in NSW. The results showed that the WRF-Chem model using Fire Emission Inventory (FINN) from National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to simulate the dispersion and transport of pollutants from wildfires predicted the daily concentration of PM2.5 having the correlation (R2) and index of agreement (IOA) from 0.6 to 0.75 and 0.61 to 0.86, respectively, when compared with the ground-based data. The impact on health endpoints such as mortality and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases hospitalizations across the modelling domain was then estimated. The estimated health impact on each of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) census districts (SA4) of New South Wales was calculated based on epidemiological assumptions of the impact function and incidence rate data from the 2016 ABS and NSW Department of Health statistical health records. Summing up all SA4 census district results over NSW, we estimated that there were 247 (CI: 89, 409) premature deaths, 437 (CI: 81, 984) cardiovascular diseases hospitalizations and 1535 (CI: 493, 2087) respiratory diseases hospitalizations in NSW over the period from 1 November 2019 to 8 January 2020. The results are comparable with a previous study based only on observation data, but the results in this study provide much more spatially and temporally detailed data with regard to the health impact from the summer 2019–2020 wildfires
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