How to get real-time Air Quality readings in Sydney?


Special post for people in Sydney! It seems we’re in for a season of air pollution from the bushfires. While I’m a big advocate of training outside in all weather, rain or heat, to work on mental toughness (if you’re physical capabilities allow you to!), when the air is polluted from the bushfires, it’s definitely best to avoid training outdoors.

The problem is: how to know which Air Quality Index readings are the correct ones when faced with the below (hint: the worse reading is the correct one…):

PM2.5 readings are essential but official government data is useless

What we need are real-time air quality readings, especially on the PM2.5 counts: the fine particulate matter that is the most nocive for our health as they are small enough to go deep in the lungs and pass into the bloodstream.

The NSW State Government is publishing the official Air Quality Index readings here. But it’s useless for our purpose to decide whether we should exercise outside because the PM2.5 reading (and PM10) are 24 hours rolling averages, not real-time.

How to monitor air quality?

The best way I’ve found around that issue is to use mobile applications sourcing data from multiple sources. The two I have found to be the most reliable are:

Both are free. BUT you need to be careful when adding your data sources as there are both real-time readings and readings relying on the Government data. On badly polluted days, you’ll identify the government sites quickly as they are the only ones showing a green good quality reading among a sea of red unhealthy readings…

How to configure Air Matters

Air Matters provides you with real readings from both a variety of real-time sources and the Government ones.

How to choose which ones are real-time? Well, if heavily polluted, as I said, the lower readings are the governmental ones you want to avoid. Otherwise, check the data source by looking at the very bottom of the detailed view for each monitoring station.

This is the data source you want to avoid.

How to configure Air Visual

Air Visual is a bit different because it provides you with data points sourced from both real-time monitoring station, government data but also simulated data based on satellite imagery. The simulated data points are best avoided and are indicated with asterisks on the main map:

Again, you ‘ll want to find the data sources that are not coming from the government network, so avoid the ones indicated as below:

Conclusion: don’t rely on government numbers!

They’re correct but they’re 24 hours rolling averages, which makes them useless in the current situation with all the bushfires raging around Sydney. But if you follow the instructions below, you’ll get access to correct real-time data that will help you decide if you can train, or should stay inside and wear a mask when going out.

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