This material was developed prior to COVID-19. Follow current COVID-19 directions for physical distancing and wearing a face covering when you leave home.

Maps of current epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecast

Today

Map of Victorian weather districts and the status for today. These details are available in the table above or at emergency.vic.gov.au

Tomorrow

Map of Victorian weather districts and the status for tomorrow. These details are available in the table above or at emergency.vic.gov.au

Risk forecasts are issued twice daily during the grass pollen season (October through December). They cover three consecutive days and use a colour-coded scale: green (low), orange (moderate) and red (high).

For up to date information on epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk visit the VicEmergency website or download the VicEmergency app from Google Play or the App Store and set up a 'watch zone'.

Three day epidemic thunderstorm asthma forecast by region

Current status:
District Thu
6th
Jan
Thu
6th
Jan
Thu
6th
Jan
 Last updated: Sun December 31st, 2017, 1:33 pm
Central No data available No data available No data available
East Gippsland No data available No data available No data available
Mallee No data available No data available No data available
North Central No data available No data available No data available
North East No data available No data available No data available
Northern Country No data available No data available No data available
South West No data available No data available No data available
West and South Gippsland No data available No data available No data available
Wimmera No data available No data available No data available

What do the risk forecasts mean?

The epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecasting system will operate between 1 October and 31 December. It combines the forecasting of a certain uncommon type of thunderstorm and forecasting of grass pollen levels across Victoria. 

It spans three days (today, tomorrow and the day after) and uses a colour-coded scale from low to high risk: green (low), orange (moderate) and red (high).

  • A low risk (green) forecast means that the elements necessary for an epidemic thunderstorm asthma event are not expected and an event is unlikely.
  • A moderate risk (orange) forecast means that one of the elements necessary for an event may be present (i.e. a high pollen forecast or a severe thunderstorm with strong winds) and there is a moderate chance of an epidemic thunderstorm asthma event occurring. 
  • A high risk (red) forecast means that there is a high pollen forecast and severe thunderstorm(s) with strong winds are likely to be present increasing the risk of an epidemic thunderstorm asthma event occuring. 

The risk forecast is published on VicEmergency.

Forecasts are not a formal 'warning' and are designed to inform people at risk that they should be prepared. The forecast only indicates whether the chance of an epidemic thunderstorm asthma event occurring is increased – a higher forecast does not mean than an event is certain to happen, nor does a lower forecast mean that an event will not happen.

What should I do on days with increased risk?

People should be aware of the heightened risk of thunderstorm asthma in general throughout the grass pollen season and be appropriately prepared. The forecast should not replace appropriate prevention and good asthma and hay fever management, which is the best way to protect yourself from thunderstorm asthma.

The forecasting system is also not designed to forecast the risk of individuals experiencing asthma and hay fever symptoms, which occur every year during the grass pollen season.

People with current, past or undiagnosed asthma or hay fever are considered to be at risk. Having both asthma and hay fever or poorly controlled asthma increases the risk further. Those at increased risk should:

  • avoid exposure to any storms that may emerge, especially the wind gusts that precede them
  • have a reliever appropriately available (as discussed with your doctor or pharmacist) 
  • remind themselves of their asthma action plan if they have one and  know the four steps of asthma first aid.

On a high risk day the department will issue up-to-date relevant advice and warnings on the VicEmergency warning  platform.

The risk forecast for the current day is only updated once, at approximately 12:30pm. Any further updates (such as public advice and warnings) will be posted on the VicEmergency website and app. 

How is epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecast?

The risk of an epidemic thunderstorm asthma event occurring is forecast daily during the Victorian grass pollen season (typically 1 October to 31 December). 

The department has worked with the Bureau of Meteorology and a number of partner organisations to develop the risk forecasting system. The system combines weather and pollen observations and data to forecast the risk of an epidemic thunderstorm asthma event.

Weather conditions associated with epidemic thunderstorm asthma include wind changes and strong gusts typically observed with thunderstorms. This information comes from the Bureau of Meteorology's numerical weather models and weather forecasters monitoring the most recent weather observations.

Pollen forecasts are dependent on many factors including wind, temperature, rainfall, relative humidity and satellite-estimated grass coverage and condition. The current pollen forecasting model uses information about pollen counts collected over many years in Melbourne and four years across the state. Pollen collection at the current eight Victorian sites during the grass pollen season helps to verify and refine the pollen forecasting model.

The risk forecasting system serves two purposes:

  • to enable health and emergency service systems to be suitably prepared on days of increased risk
  • to raise community awareness of possible events so, where possible, those at increased risk can take action to reduce the health impacts of a potential event. 

How do I set up a watch zone to receive advice and warnings when a high risk is forecast in my area?

  • Open the VicEmergency website or the app.
  • Select 'Create a Watch Zone'
  • On the following screen, type your address or suburb into the search box at the top, and select your location from the suggestion list that drops down.
  • You can also adjust the radius of your watch zone by selecting the plus (+) or minus (-) button.
  • Once you are happy with the radius of your Watch Zone, select 'Next'
  • Choose a name for your new watch zone, for example 'Asthma' and type it into the text box.
  • Ensure that the 'advice warning' option is selected.

You will now receive automatic warnings that are issued in your selected Watch Zone.

How accurate is the epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecasting system?

The science of epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecasting is new and as with all forecasts, there is an element of uncertainty. The epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecast is based on a synthesis of the modelled grass pollen forecast combined with the forecast for a particular type of thunderstorm. These complex models have multiple inputs, including from satellite data and land and ocean-based measurements. Accuracy of the epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecasting system is limited by how precisely these complex phenomena can be observed and modelled.

Epidemic thunderstorm asthma events are relatively rare, and therefore, it may take some time until the accuracy can be measured with high confidence. 

Additionally, the forecast only indicates whether the chance of an epidemic thunderstorm asthma event occurring is increased – a higher forecast does not mean than an event is certain to happen, nor does a lower forecast mean that an event will not happen. 

People should be aware of the heightened risk of thunderstorm asthma in general throughout the grass pollen season and be appropriately prepared. The forecast should not replace appropriate prevention and good asthma and hay fever management, which is the best way to protect yourself from thunderstorm asthma.

Where are the pollen traps located in Victoria?

The Victorian pollen monitoring network comprises eight pollen traps at the following locations: 

  • Parkville
  • Burwood
  • Waurn Ponds (Geelong)
  • Hamilton
  • Creswick (near Ballarat)
  • Bendigo
  • Dookie (near Shepparton)
  • Churchill (near Morwell)

These eight pollen traps across Victoria support the verification and refinement of the forecasting model by providing a more detailed understanding of pollen levels and the spread/movement of pollen across the state.

Where can I find data from pollen traps in my area?

In Victoria, the University of Melbourne and Deakin University house the necessary expertise to operate a pollen monitoring network.

As part of the epidemic thunderstorm asthma forecasting system, the Victorian Government, through the Bureau of Meteorology, is funding the University of Melbourne and Deakin University to monitor grass pollen during the grass pollen season. Pollen information is provided to the Bureau of Meteorology as one important element to the epidemic thunderstorm asthma forecast, and to the public for personal use.

The University of Melbourne and its partner organisations operate six pollen monitoring sites at Hamilton, Creswick, Bendigo, Dookie, Churchill and Parkville. Information from these sites is available from the Melbourne Pollen mobile app (download from the App Store for iOS devices or Google Play for Android devices) and Melbourne Pollen website.

Deakin AIRwatch is a facility of Deakin University providing daily pollen forecasts at its Melbourne (Burwood) and Geelong (Waurn Ponds) campuses. Information from these sites is available at the Deakin AIRwatch website.

Why is grass pollen only counted between 1 October and 31 December?

Plants release their pollen when they are flowering, and different types of plants flower at different times of year. Many deciduous trees such as birch, plane and elm flower in late winter and early spring, for example, whereas many grasses flower in the period from October to December. Research shows that grass pollen is by far the most common cause of spring hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis) in Victoria. The specific grass that is thought to be involved in epidemic thunderstorm asthma events in Victoria is rye grass. 

Grass pollen data collected in Melbourne for more than 20 years shows that the highest levels start occurring, on average, in mid-October and fluctuate daily until the end of December. By the end of November grasses start dying off and the levels of grass pollen in the air begin to reduce. The exact start and finish of grass pollen season varies slightly from season to season but is typically from 1 October to the end of December.

How is a pollen forecast different from an epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecast? 

Grass pollen forecasts simply reflect the expected amount of pollen in the air. They can help people with hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis) to prepare for these days.  

Epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecasts combine grass pollen forecasts with the prediction of a certain type of thunderstorm thought to produce a thunderstorm asthma event.

 

Map of Victorian forecast districts

View a map of Victorian districts below or access the map website. A list of local government areas is also provided below.

List of local government authorities by forecast district

  • Central District
    • Ballarat City
    • Banyule City
    • Bass Coast Shire
    • Bayside City
    • Boroondara City
    • Brimbank City
    • Cardinia Shire
    • Casey City
    • Darebin City
    • Frankston City
    • French Island
    • Glen Eira City
    • Golden Plains
    • Greater Dandenong City
    • Greater Geelong City
    • Hepburn Shire
    • Hobsons Bay City
    • Hume City
    • Kingston City
    • Knox City
    • Macedon Ranges Shire
    • Manningham City
    • Maribyrnong City
    • Maroondah City
    • Melbourne City
    • Melton Shire
    • Monash City
    • Moonee Valley City
    • Moorabool Shire
    • Moreland City
    • Mornington Peninsula Shire
    • Nillumbik Shire
    • Port Phillip City
    • Queenscliffe Borough
    • Stonnington City
    • Surf Coast Shire
    • Whitehorse City
    • Whittlesea City
    • Wyndham City
    • Yarra City
    • Yarra Ranges Shire
  • East Gippsland District
    • East Gippsland Shire
  • Mallee District
    • Buloke Shire
    • Gannawarra Shire
    • Mildura Rural City
    • Swan Hill Rural City
    • Yarriambiack Shire (north of the netting fence)
  • North Central District
    • Central Goldfields Shire
    • Lake Mountain Alpine Resort
    • Mitchell Shire
    • Mount Alexander Shire
    • Murrindindi Shire
  • North East District
    • Alpine Shire
    • Benalla Rural City
    • Falls Creek Alpine Resort
    • Indigo Shire
    • Mansfield Shire
    • Mount Buller Alpine Resort
    • Mount Hotham Alpine Resort
    • Mount Stirling Alpine Resort
    • Towong Shire
    • Wangaratta Rural City
    • Wodonga City
  • Northern Country District
    • Campaspe Shire
    • Greater Bendigo City
    • Greater Shepparton City
    • Loddon Shire
    • Moira Shire
    • Strathbogie Shire
  • South West District
    • Ararat Rural City
    • Colac Otway Shire
    • Corangamite Shire
    • Glenelg Shire
    • Moyne Shire
    • Pyrenees Shire
    • Southern Grampians Shire
    • Warrnambool City
  • West and South Gippsland District
    • Baw Baw Shire
    • Latrobe City
    • Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort
    • South Gippsland Shire
    • Wellington Shire
  • Wimmera District
    • Hindmarsh Shire
    • Horsham Rural City
    • Northern Grampians Shire
    • West Wimmera Shire
    • Yarriambiack Shire (south of the netting fence)