Looks like the haze is here to stay

If you’re one of those unlucky west side dwellers, we feel you.

The haze worsened last night — both the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) and PM2.5 readings shot up, with the PM 2.5 levels in the west hitting this year’s record high of 471.

These satellite images taken by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) could probably account for the haze situation.

Here’s what the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured: vast areas of Borneo, Indonesia are cloaked in smoke, deteriorating air quality in Indonesia and neighbouring countries.

borneo_amo_2015292 Source: NASA

The hot spots outlined in red are where sensors detect surface temperatures that are unusually warm, often linked to fires.

borneodetail_amo_2015292Source: NASA

Peat fires to blame

Many of these fires are occurring in areas with soils laid over peat — a mixture of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter that is unique to natural areas called mires or peatlands. Peat fires tend to smoulder under the surface for months as they are difficult to put out.

Peat fires release unusually large amounts of certain pollutants as compared to other types of fires. Peat fires emit ten times more methane and three times more carbon monoxide than savanna fires.

More carbon dioxide equivalents than Germany’s average annual emissions

According to Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam scientist Guido van der Werf, Indonesia’s fires have released “an estimated 1.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalents so far this year”, an alarming figure more than Germany’s average annual emissions.

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Featured image via NASA
With reference to NASA