Track Real-Time Air Pollution With this Crowdsourced Map

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When events such as the current California wildfires occur, one concern local residents have is air quality.

A variety of factors such as where and how intense the wildfires are burning and wind conditions affect how bad the smoke from the fires is.

Smoke from the wildfires can extend out over hundreds of miles, affecting areas far away from the source of the wildfire.

Wildfires blanked the entire West Coast on September 9, 2020. Image: Landsat, NASA, public domain.
Wildfires blanketed nearly the entire West Coast on September 9, 2020. Image: Landsat, NASA, public domain.

Whether the source of the air pollution is smoke from wildfires or comes from industrial and traffic sources, days of low air quality are stressful to all life.

Mapping Air Pollution in Real-Time

One way to track air quality at the local level is by visiting PurpleAir, an interactive website that pulls in crowdsourced data that tracks air quality from “Internet of Things” sensors to provide near real-time air quality pollutant measurements.

Since PurpleAir pulls in air quality measurements from households and businesses using air quality sensors. For more urban areas,

PurpleAir has many more sensors collecting information than AirNow, which is a partnership of various U.S. governmental agencies. This allows for a more hyperlocal reading of current air quality for those areas that have a good geographic representation of data.

Location of AirNow sensors versus PurpleAir sensors.
Location of AirNow sensors versus PurpleAir sensors.

PurpleAir lets users see real-time as well as moving average air quality.

From the drop down in the lower left corner of the map, users can choose the type of air quality sensor, humidity, or temperatures measurements to display on the map.

Another drop down lets the user select from real-time or an average ranging from 10 minutes to one week.

The availability of sensors in a geographic area depends on the number of locations that have sensors installed.

Visit: PurpleAir Map

PurpleAir provides crowdsourced air quality measurements.
PurpleAir provides crowdsourced air quality measurements.

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