Mobile phones to fight bushfires

Monash University

Friday, 30 April, 2021


Mobile phones to fight bushfires

Led by Dr Adrien Guyot, Research Fellow in Monash University’s Department of Civil Engineering, this Australia-first study analysed radio link signal fluctuations during smoke events associated with the 2019–2020 Australian bushfires.

Observations showed that dry air containing large amounts of smoke within a surface layer above the ground acted as a lid, reducing dispersion, trapping and maintaining high ground-level concentrations of smoke. This climate also created irregular broadcast conditions for radio links and operational weather radars. Unique signal patterns were identified and shown to be related to these specific atmospheric conditions and smoke concentrations by analysing the received signal levels of these links.

Researchers say this routinely recorded data by telecommunication companies could be used to predict smoke concentrations at ground level during haze events, in collaboration with other hazard reduction technologies. The study, developed in collaboration with Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands), Wageningen University (The Netherlands), the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and Monash University’s School of Earth, Atmosphere & Environment, was published in the journal AGU Advancing Earth and Space Science.

Dr Guyot said the future of improved smoke prediction capabilities is likely to be a blended product combining modelling, satellite remote sensing, weather radar ground clutter, in situ observations and mobile phone data. Received signal levels (RSLs) from radio links have been used to measure rainfall and humidity. Radio links, otherwise known as commercial microwave links (CMLs), are the backbone of cellular communication networks.

Researchers found the qualitative information from CML signals showed differences to climate and atmospheric conditions, as well as temperature inversions that could be precursors to elevated PM levels associated with a smoke incident.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Tim

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