Fires and haze – how to maintain a glow of interest?


Fires in Sumatra and elsewhere are ablaze every year, often causing haze problems in southeast Asian countries. Everyone seems to agree with this observation, and many have asked over the past months and in various media: Why, if this is a recurring problem, has it not been dealt with more decisively?

Or, rather, it appears that many were asking this question while the haze was still in the air, but that interest has largely vanished with the haze. To illustrate mainstream media attention to the recent fires in Sumatra, we compared over time the number of hotspots with the number of related news items over time. The hotspots detected by satellites over Sumatra seem to provide an accurate representation of fires on the ground. We conducted a Google search for news items globally about the fire and haze in Sumatra, and checked each search result manually for relevance. We then plotted the number of hotspots against the 601 news items for the period 1 June to 31 August 2013.

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