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 has provided funding to develop a national prototype smoke forecasting system. The project will test potential extensions to the current operational AQFx system. AQFx is run by the Bureau of Meteorology in Victoria for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), and in NSW for the Rural Fire Service (RFS).

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

Critical to the successful development of the prototype system is an engaged network of end users who can help to improve the system over time. The main users of the prototype smoke forecasting system are the fire and emergency service agencies and environment and health departments in participating states and territories. Our researchers will engage with these 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 AirRater smartphone app and the Air Quality Visualisation System, AQVx. For more information about both the research components of this project and the AirRater and AQVx outreach tools click on the ‘our activities’ tab.

The prototype AQFx development and deployment represents a rapid and flexible response to the imperative to quickly deploy a national smoke forecasting capability. An important objective is to complete the project with an agreed pathway for transferring the prototype developments and the stakeholder ecosystem into an operational national AQFx system managed by the Bureau of Meteorology.