Thursday, 20 June 2013

It Is Hazy in Singapore

Every year, around the month of September, Sumatra (Indonesia) does its usual burn off to clear their land for their next palm oil plantations. They use the method of burning because it is cheaper, and it makes instant compost, which guarantees a good harvest. The last time I blogged about the haze in Singapore was back in October 2010. 

This year, they seemed to have started two months earlier. We are now at the beginning of the Southwest Monsoon season, with low level winds blowing predominantly from the southeast or southwest. This typically lasts from June to September, and is the traditional dry season for the southern ASEAN region.

You start to notice the signs when you smell a an unpleasant smell of burning trees. Then symptoms of a dry, scratchy throat and maybe itchy skin and eyes appear. You can no longer see the sun in the mornings, or it appears as a bright orange circle in the sky. It's like waking up on a foggy morning in New Zealand, but the air that you breathe makes you cough.

The sun trying to break through the haze. Picture taken at 8.20am, Thurs 20 June
Singapore is now in a "National Haze Crisis."

Singapore measures its air quality using the PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) method. As you can see from the table below, the ideal 'PSI Value' would be between 0 to 50, and maybe acceptable up to 100.
Screen shot of PSI Index, from NEA website


On Wednesday 19 June, the PSI soared to 321 (hazardous level) at 10pm (local time), up from 190, two hours earlier. Then at 11pm, it eased slightly down to 282 (very unhealthy).

As per the table above, a reading above 300 indicates "hazardous" air quality and 201-300 means "very unhealthy".

The 321 level is also above the previous 226 record reached in Singapore in 1997 when smog from Indonesian forest fires disrupted shipping and air travel across Southeast Asia. It caused widespread health problems and cost the regional economy billions of dollars as a result of business and air transport disruptions.

These two pictures were taken by a friend of ours on Mon 17 Jun.
The top photo was taken at 10.24am
The bottom photo was taken at 2.46pm


You'll see from the table below that the PSI readings for today (Thursday 20 June) was in the moderate / unhealthy range up until 12pm, and then bounced up and down between very unhealthy / hazardous up until 8pm, where it dipped slightly to 197 at 9pm. The PSI is actually a 3 hour average, real time PSI numbers have gone into the 400+ range (life threatening to ill and elderly people).
 

The three-hour Pollution Standards Index (PSI) soared to 321 at 10pm local time (1300 GMT), up from 190 just two hours earlier.
However, the PSI level eased slightly down to 282 at 11pm - the last three-hour PSI reading for the day. This still puts it within the "very unhealthy" range and dangerously close to "hazardous" levels.
- See more at: http://yourhealth.asiaone.com/content/psi-hits-new-high-170-2pm-worst-1997#sthash.jcFgdNby.dpu
The three-hour Pollution Standards Index (PSI) soared to 321 at 10pm local time (1300 GMT), up from 190 just two hours earlier.
However, the PSI level eased slightly down to 282 at 11pm - the last three-hour PSI reading for the day. This still puts it within the "very unhealthy" range and dangerously close to "hazardous" levels.
- See more at: http://yourhealth.asiaone.com/content/psi-hits-new-high-170-2pm-worst-1997#sthash.jcFgdNby.dpuf
The three-hour Pollution Standards Index (PSI) soared to 321 at 10pm local time (1300 GMT), up from 190 just two hours earlier.
However, the PSI level eased slightly down to 282 at 11pm - the last three-hour PSI reading for the day. This still puts it within the "very unhealthy" range and dangerously close to "hazardous" levels.
- See more at: http://yourhealth.asiaone.com/content/psi-hits-new-high-170-2pm-worst-1997#sthash.jcFgdNby.dp
Screen shot of PSI readings for Thursday 20 June. From NEA website

After the 321 PSI reading on Wednesday, people have been rushing out to by masks. We both got ours today (the fabric version), thanks to our workplaces. However, Hubby's workplace had a special stash of N95 masks that were only given out to people who really needed them, such as the elderly or people with respiratory problems.

The Singapore government was in talks with the Indonesian government today about possible solutions to the haze, but in the mean time the nation is keeping an eye on the latest readings, hoping for rain or a change in wind direction, so that we can all breathe normally again.

The Singapore Government has set up a one-stop information portal on their website called Emergency 101, it contains information and updates about the haze.


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