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How do I use the free online smoke prediction tool?

3rd April 2024

HYSPLIT is an extremely powerful online tool used by academics around the world. It is full of complicated options but luckily most are correctly pre-populated so you can ignore most of them.

Follow these steps to produce your own smoke map in just a few minutes. Use it as an aid to planning when and where to burn.

Step 1 – Click on this link here and change the Meteorology to GFS.

Step 2 – Find your moor. Slide the map and zoom in. Click on the location of your moor. A blue marker will appear. When done, go to the bottom of the page and click Next

Step 3 – Select the day you will be burning (this can be up to three days ahead).

In the dropdown box next to Choose an archived meteorological file select the day. Stay with us because this is not that tricky when you realise that each option corresponds to the forecast for a single day and the naming convention is YYYYMMDD. Only an academic would format it that way but it is what we have and it is free. When done, click Next.

Step 4 – Tell it how long you will be burning. On the Model Run Details page leave all the settings alone but scroll down and change:

  • Release Duration. Enter the approximate length of time you expect to burn for (one hour is a suggestion for now).
  • Total duration. This should be at least the same length as the release duration and probably a couple of hours more.

Step 5 – Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Request Dispersion Run to run the prediction.

You will be taken to a new webpage with a blue Model Status box. It will take a few minutes to generate the map for you based on the weather information for that day and time.

 Interpreting the output

The results are in two parts.

The map

This provides an indication of smoke dispersion, showing the concentration in the lowest 100m of the atmosphere. It is interactive so you can move laterally and zoom in/out.

The small red region close to the burn site shows the region with the highest concentration of smoke. The orange, yellow, blue, green, and grey regions have progressively lower concentrations with the grey region in this case having a minimum concentration 300x smaller than the red.

It is important to note that the absolute values should be ignored as we have set an arbitrary amount of material to be released (Release Quantity). The spatial dispersion of the pollution and relative concentrations are much more informative.

You can also move forward in time using the control bar in the bottom left to see the spread of smoke evolve.

If you set your heather burn time to 1 hour (recommended suggestion) and you started your burn at 9am and ran for 6 hours, the map will initially show the dispersion at 10 am (see timestamp in the white box). Moving the blue marker advances the model by 1 hour, so in the above example you would see the pollution dispersion at 11am, 12pm and so on until 3 pm.

Pressing the > to the right of the bar cycles through all the hours. You should see the plume move over time.

The ‘More Results’ Table

This offers further data visualization. The PDF Plots of the Concentration Grid 1 (below left) provide still images of the map at every increment of the averaging period (e.g. every hour) while the PDF plots of the Particle Position (below right) shows both the lateral distribution of the particles used to simulate the pollution (upper panel) but also their vertical motion (lower panel).

If more of the pollution gets higher up in the atmosphere, its impact on local air quality will be lower but it could affect a wider region.

For more information on how to use the  use tool in detail, please click here .


Did You Know?

75% of Europe’s remaining upland heather moorland is found in the UK – but this area declined alarmingly over the latter part of the last century. The Moorland Association was set up in 1986 to coordinate the efforts of moorland owners and managers to halt this loss, particularly in England and Wales.

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