Case study: Observing biomass burning in Indonesia to improve air quality monitoring
27 Oct 2021



Ground-based measurements of aerosols from the 2019 peat fires in Indonesia will combine with satellite data to improve air quality monitoring.




​The Challenge:

Biomass burning severely pollutes the environment, producing plumes of trace gases, including carbon monoxide, and fine aerosols which pose risks to public health. Satellite data can be used with models and ground based measurements to determine if the air quality is getting worse and help assess the relationship between burning events and climate change. The extent of fire plumes from Indonesia and elsewhere is indicated by carbon monoxide distributions produced from MetOp by RAL Space’s Infrared and Microwave Sounding scheme on the JASMIN computer infrastructure. To exploit satellite observations of aerosol in the plumes, the optical properties of the aerosol need to be understood, starting with inputs from ground measurements of their composition and size distribution. 

The Solution:

Scientists from RAL Space Remote-Sensing Group and King’s College London visited Palangkaraya in Indonesia and took measurements on the ground around peatlands, a school and a hospital in September 2019.

The Outcome:

The ground measurements of Indonesian aerosol properties will improve the quality of aerosol distributions produced in this region from the Sea and Land Surface Radiometer and the Along Track Scanning Radiometre data; instruments which have had significant involvement from RAL Space.

This study will also help improve observations from geostationary satellites that take measurements every 10 minutes rather than once a day, to provide near-real time data to local public health officials for long-term monitoring of air quality.


Find out more:

This research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and carried out with King’s College London. The satellite data retrievals are performed by RAL Space’s Remote Sensing Group along with National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) colleagues.

Ground measurements included over 20 types of readings such as spectrometry, observing both close to and far away from sources to study the emissions close to the fires and the air quality around the community where people live. The fieldwork formed part of an international training workshop “Identifying and Monitoring the Environmental Impact of Forest and Peatland Fires” that took place in September 2019, in Palangkaraya. The workshop was organised by NCEO, King's College London, the Bandung Institute of Technology, and supported by the University of Palangka Raya, the Health Polytechnic University of Palangka Raya and BMKG (Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics, equivalent of the Met Office).