News from the CRC

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Post fire field work
Post fire field work

New online - December 2016

New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.

A special edition of the journal Climatic Change, featuring CRC researchers A/Prof Jason Sharples and Prof Albert van Dijk, documents the historical record and projected change of seven natural hazards in Australia: flood; storms (including wind and hail); coastal extremes; drought; heatwave; bushfire; and frost. The Conversation also published feature articles on each hazard. Natural hazards in Australia: extreme bushfire reflects upon recently developed understanding of bushfire dynamics to consider (i) historical changes in the occurrence of extreme bushfires, and (ii) the potential for increasing frequency in the future under climate change projections. Historical information on noteworthy bushfires suggests an increased occurrence in recent decades. Based on the best current understanding of how extreme bushfires develop, there is strong potential for them to increase in frequency in the future. Natural hazards in Australia: droughts summarises what is known about drought hazard, as opposed to the impacts of drought, in Australia and finds that, unlike other hydroclimatic hazards, we currently have very limited ability to tell when a drought will begin or end. Understanding, defining, monitoring, forecasting and managing drought is also complex due to the variety of temporal and spatial scales at which drought occurs and the diverse direct and indirect causes and consequences of drought. Natural hazards in Australia: floods reviews the current understanding of historical trends and variability in flood hazard across Australia. Research questions are posed based on the current state of knowledge. These include a need for high-resolution climate modelling studies and efforts in compiling and analysing databases of sub-daily rainfall and flood records, as well as developing modelling frameworks that can deal with the interaction between climate processes at different spatio-temporal scales, so that historical flood trends can be better explained and future flood behaviour understood.

The Out of uniform project has a paper looking at the opportunities, responses and gaps in the changing landscape of disaster volunteering in Australia. The paper considers implications of this changing landscape for the resilience agenda in disaster management, with a focus on Australia. It reviews major forces and trends impacting on disaster volunteering, highlighting four key developments: the growth of more diverse and episodic volunteering styles, the impact of new communications technology, greater private sector involvement and growing government expectations of and intervention in the voluntary sector, and examines opportunities in this changing landscape for the Australian emergency management sector across five key strategic areas and provides examples of Australian responses to these opportunities to date. The five areas of focus are: developing more flexible volunteering strategies, harnessing spontaneous volunteering, building capacity to engage digital (and digitally enabled) volunteers, tapping into the growth of employee and skills-based volunteering and co-producing community-based disaster risk reduction. 

Both the Mapping busfire hazard and impact and the Mitigating the effects of severe fires, floods and heatwaves through improvements to land dryness measures and forecasts studies are covered in a paper comapring remotely sensed and modelled soil moisture data sets across Australia. The study compared surface soil moisture from 11 separate remote sensing and modelled products across Australia in a common framework. The comparison was based on a correlation analysis between soil moisture products and in situ data collated from three separate ground-based networks: OzFlux, OzNet and CosmOz. Evaluation has highlighted relative strengths, weaknesses, and complementarities between products, so the drawbacks of each may be minimised through a more informed assessment of fitness for purpose by end-users.

Also from the Mapping busfire hazard and impact project is a paper presenting a novel method to derive grassland aboveground biomass (AGB) based on the PROSAILH (PROSPECT + SAILH) radiative transfer model (RTM). The team concluded that although it is still necessary to test these methodologies in other areas, the RTM-based method offers greater robustness and reproducibility to estimate grassland AGB at large scale without the need to collect field measurements and therefore is considered the most promising methodology.

Four PhD students also have had papers published recently. Billy Haworth has assessed the application and value of participatory mapping for community bushfire preparationParticipatory mapping workshops were held in bushfire-risk communities in Tasmania. Workshop activities included a paper-mapping exercise and web-based digital mapping. Survey results from 31 participants at three workshops indicated the process of mapping and contributing local information for bushfire preparation with other community members can contribute to increased social connectedness, understanding of local bushfire risk, and engagement in risk reduction. Local knowledge exchange was seen as valuable, but the social dimension appeared even more engaging than the specific information shared. Participants reported collaborative maps as effective for collating and sharing community bushfire information with a preference for digital mapping. 

Completed associate student Alex Wolkow has reviewed the Psychophysiological relationships between a multi-component self-report measure of mood, stress and behavioural signs and symptoms, and physiological stress responses during a simulated firefighting deploymentWhen sleep restricted, firefighters demonstrated increases in multi-component training distress scale (MTDS) factors of general fatigue, perceived stress and depressed mood that were related to elevated cytokines (TNF-α, IL-8, IL-10, IL-6) and cortisol. Conversely, firefighters who had an 8 hour sleep demonstrated a positive relationship between physical signs and symptoms and elevated IL-6, while depressed mood was inversely related to decreasing cortisol and cytokines (IL-6, TNF-α, IL-10). Findings highlight the utility of the MTDS to detect psychological changes that reflect physiological responses among firefighters.

Another recently completed associate student, George Carayannopoulous, has considered issues around whole of government crisis management to provide a review of the relevant literature, to understand the synergies that exist in connected responses to crises.

Phd student Yang Chen has been published in proceedings from the SPIE Remote Sensing conference in Poland in September, estimating forest surface fuel load using airbourne LiDAR dataThe accurate and consistent spatial variation in surface fuel load derived from the two models tested could be used to assist fire authorities in guiding fire hazard-reduction burns and fire suppressions in the Upper Yarra Reservoir area, Victoria. Yang was awarded the 2016 best student paper in the category of Earth Resources and Environmental Remote Sensing/GIS Applications at the conference.

More news from the CRC

Check out the latest CRC research to be published.
Engaging for Industry event at RMIT University
Research promotion was on the agenda this month at two high profile research and industry events.
AFAC18 Logo
The deadline for abstract submissions for AFAC18 powered by INTERSCHUTZ is now 19 February.
Cyclone Bianca in WA. Photo: Stu Rapley (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
A PhD study is looking at how education can benefit residents in areas that are prone to natural disasters. If you live in Port Hedland WA and have experienced a cyclone, storm or flood, you can assist with this...
Morayfield, QLD flood
CRC research on floodwater-related deaths has been by showcased in ‘Stories of Australian Science’ magazine.
Research Advisory Forum, Hobart, May 2016
The CRC's successes and accomplishments of its first four years are featured in the Highlights and Achievements 2013-2017 publication, which is available online.
Graham Dwyer talks at AFAC15
The next round of Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC PhD students have graduated and are sharing their research outcomes with the fire and emergency services sector.
Prescribed burning research
It is not too late to apply for funding under the CRC’s Tactical Research Fund, which encourages short-term research projects to meet the near term needs of Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC partners.
Find out about the latest research in emergency management in the latest edition of the Australian Journal of Emergency Management.
Gary Morgan AM
Former Bushfire CRC CEO Gary Morgan was recognised for his significant service to the community with an Australia Day honour, becoming a member of the Order of Australia (AM).

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