Journal article

A Pilot Forecasting System for Epidemic Thunderstorm Asthma in Southeastern Australia

Tony Bannister, Elizabeth E Ebert, Jeremy Silver, Ed Newbigin, Edwin R Lampugnani, Nicole Hughes, Clare Looker, Vanora Mulvenna, Penelope J Jones, Janet M Davies, Cenk Suphioglu, Paul J Beggs, Kathryn M Emmerson, Alfredo Huete, Nguyen Ha, Ted Williams, Philip Douglas, Alan Wain, Maree Carroll, Danny Csutoros



In November 2016, an unprecedented epidemic thunderstorm asthma event in Victoria, Australia, resulted in many thousands of people developing breathing difficulties in a very short period of time, including 10 deaths, and created extreme demand across the Victorian health services. To better prepare for future events, a pilot forecasting system for epidemic thunderstorm asthma (ETSA) risk has been developed for Victoria. The system uses a categorical risk-based approach, combining operational forecasting of gusty winds in severe thunderstorms with statistical forecasts of high ambient grass pollen concentrations, which together generate the risk of epidemic thunderstorm asthma. This pilot sy..

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Awarded by NHMRC

Awarded by ARC

Funding Acknowledgements

This work was funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services with support from the Bureau of Meteorology. Rosanne Dampf ably kept the project on track. Tarini Casinader, Jaya Jayasuriya (now retired), Evan Morgan, Andrew Tupper, and Peter Otto provided valuable organizational support from BoM, as did many members of the Health Protection Branch within DHHS. Meteorologists Dean Sgarbossa and Jonathon Grimes were perceptive sounding boards for discussion on the meteorological mechanisms associated with ETSA. Usha Nattala, Uli Felzmann, Melissa Makin, and the team at the University of Melbourne Science IT helped Dr. E. Lampugnani to design and develop with Aerobiology Platform, with excellent technical support provided by Chris Stroud, Robert Sturrock, and Baybars Tetik. Additional historical data on daily pollen concentrations around southeastern Australia for developing and testing the statistical pollen model were kindly supplied by Prof. Connie Katelaris (Western Sydney University), Prof. Simon Haberle (Australian National University), Dr. Bruce Graham (Charles Sturt University), and Prof. Fay Johnston (University of Tasmania). We acknowledge the NHMRC AusPollen Partnership (GNT1116107) led by Prof. Janet Davies (Queensland University of Technology) for providing background information and assistance with establishing the VicTAPS project and the ARC Discovery Project (DP170101630) led by Prof. Alfredo Heute (University of Technology Sydney) for providing background information on remote sensing. We also acknowledge the Victorian Agency for Health Information (VAHI) for the provision of the deidentified VEMD data used to develop and evaluate the ETSA forecasts. The project was approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of Melbourne (Approval 2056587.1).