The extent of the 2019/2020 bushfires highlighted the urgent need for a national smoke forecasting system to protect the health of Australians. In response, the Australian Government provided funding in 2021 to develop a national prototype smoke forecasting system. The project tested potential extensions to the operational AQFx system that has been running by the Bureau of Meteorology in Victoria for the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) (formerly Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP)), and in NSW for the Rural Fire Service (RFS).

The prototype system was developed through a research collaboration between CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology, the University of Tasmania, the University of Sydney, the University of Melbourne and DEECA.

In 2023, the Australian Climate Service (ACS) provided continued funding for the CSIRO AQFx project to:

  • Enable CSIRO to improve the underpinning science and near real-time data capabilities to produce robust, accurate, timely and nationally consistent air quality (including smoke and dust) forecasts.
  • Enable CSIRO to provide these forecasts to ACS customers, relevant government agencies, and the public.
  • Equip decision makers in emergency services, environment and health departments with the capabilities and information they need to issue advisory warnings about current and forecast air quality impacts.

Critical to the successful development of the AQFx system is an engaged network of end users who can help to improve the system over time.  Our researchers will engage with end users to co-design a system that is both technically robust and easy for them to use. The project will develop and maintain state-of-the-art communication tools to aid in this objective. In particular, the project will integrate the prototype AQFx system into the Air Quality Visualisation System, AQVx and the AirRater smartphone app.