Four interactive tools to track the haze

By Medha Basu

Charts, maps and apps to monitor the air quality in the region.

After a few weeks of respite from the haze, the pollution index has started to climb again.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has cut short his visit to the United States after hearing news of worsening haze. 12 people in Indonesia have died of illnesses related to the haze, and over 500,000 are suffering from respiratory infections since July.

The polluted air has caused schools in Malaysia and Singapore to be closed, and has now reached as far as the Philippines, where hospitals have been put on alert and flights cancelled.

The haze is an annual issue in the region caused by fumes from forests fires in Indonesia. But this year the haze has been particularly prolonged due to a dry spell in the region. The last haze crisis in 2013 lasted for two months, but this year Singapore's National Environment Agency has said it could last for three months.

GovInsider has put together a list of four interactive tools which you can use to track haze and forest fire hotspots in the region.

1. Singapore’s live Twitter feed
The National Environmental Agency’s popular Twitter feed brings hourly updates of the Pollution Standards Index.
It also shares forecasts on the haze, health advisories and information on the number of fire hotspots in the region.
The account @NEAsg has 159,000 followers, and has been tweeting since August 2009.
Here is a live feed from the account:
Tweets by @NEAsg

2. Malaysia’s pollution index map
Malaysia DOE map
Malaysia’s Department of Environment publishes a map with hourly updates on air quality. The map is colour coded to indicate whether the Air Pollutant Index is in a good, unhealthy or hazardous range.

The index is calculated based on data from remotely controlled air quality monitoring stations across the country.

It is calculated in a different way from the one used by Singapore’s environment agency, so the numbers will differ. Malaysia’s index uses measurements of ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and particulate matter with a diameter of less than 10 micron (PM10).

The Department has said it is in the midst of finalising a new index to include measurements of the smaller PM2.5 particles, which is used by Singapore.

3. Global Forest Watch Fires
Global Forest Watch Fires
This tool was built by the World Resources Institute and allows you to track forest fires across ASEAN in “near real-time”.
The website uses NASA’s real-time satellite data on active fires. It combines this with high resolution satellite images, detailed maps of land cover used for commodities like palm oil and wood pulp, weather conditions and air quality data.

The website also lets you select from its data and run quick analyses on the latest fire alerts. All of Global Forest Watch’s data is publicly available on its open data site. This includes the details on forest cover, how land is being used for manufacturing and agriculture, and which areas are reserved for conservation and indigenous groups.

4. ASEAN haze portal
ASEAN haze map
The ASEAN’s regional meteorological centre publishes maps with daily updates on the number of hotspots and density of haze in the region.

The centre is a collaboration between the meteorological agencies of the 10 ASEAN countries to monitor haze and forest fires in the region.

Its website publishes daily heat maps and charts with the number and distribution of hotspots across the region. It also publishes satellite images from Japan National Meteorological Agency, NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.