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A pilot forecasting system for epidemic thunderstorm asthma in south-eastern Australia


Bannister, T and Ebert, EE and Silver, J and Newbigin, E and Lampugnani, ER and Hughes, N and Looker, C and Mulvenna, V and Jones, PJ and Davies, JM and Suphioglu, C and Beggs, PJ and Emmerson, KM and Huete, A and Nguyen, H and Williams, T and Douglas, P and Wain, A and Carroll, M and Csutoros, D, A pilot forecasting system for epidemic thunderstorm asthma in south-eastern Australia, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society pp. E399-E420. ISSN 0003-0007 (2020) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2020 American Meteorological Society

DOI: doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-19-0140.1


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 ten 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 system provides the first routine daily epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecasting service in the world that covers a wide area, and integrates into the health, ambulance and emergency management sector.

Epidemic thunderstorm asthma events have historically occurred infrequently, and no event of similar magnitude has impacted the Victorian health system since. However, during the first three years of the pilot, 2017-2019, two high asthma presentation events and four moderately high asthma presentation events were identified from public hospital emergency department records. The ETSA risk forecasts showed skill in discriminating between days with and without health impacts. However, even with hindsight of the actual weather and airborne grass pollen conditions, some high asthma presentation events occurred in districts that were assessed as low risk for ETSA, indicating the challenge of predicting this unusual phenomenon.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:asthma, hayfever, allergic rhinitis, pollen, thunderstorm asthma
Research Division:Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
Research Group:Human resources and industrial relations
Research Field:Occupational and workplace health and safety
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Jones, PJ (Dr Penelope Jones)
ID Code:141489
Year Published:2020
Web of Science® Times Cited:14
Deposited By:Menzies Institute for Medical Research
Deposited On:2020-10-22
Last Modified:2022-08-30

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