Wildfire Smoke Monitoring Information

Click here to see the Campus Air Quality Map.

Air quality may change quickly depending on wildfire intensity and weather conditions. The Campus Air Quality Map is updated hourly and reports data as “Current AQI” using the EPA’s PM2.5 NowCast AQI algorithm. Refer to the UC AQI Decision-Making Matrix and the University of Health Services Wildfire Smoke webpage for recommended actions.
 

Reference Monitors

Current Air Quality Index (AQI) is used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to report air quality. Current AQI, referred to as the “NowCast,” is reported hourly for fine particulate matter of diameter 2.5 microns or less (PM2.5), the primary air pollutant of health concern during regional wildfire smoke events. The nearest reference monitors to the UC Berkeley campus are at Berkeley Aquatic Park, Laney College in Oakland, and on West Grand Avenue in Oakland. Reference monitors are integrated into the campus map above and may be viewed by zooming out, or accessed directly via AirNow.gov.

Sensors

Low-cost optical sensors that count particles in air provide supplemental environmental data. It's important to recognize these sensors are not maintained and calibrated like reference monitors; however, these sensors are valuable to view spatial trends in a community or compare indoor/outdoor conditions. Please note, sensors may report high during wildfire events due to the composition of wildfire smoke having particulates (ash) of lower density than dust. Also – one minute or 10 minute readings will fluctuate more than results averaged over longer time periods like the EPA's NowCast algorithm. 

Pilot Project using Clarity PM2.5 Sensors

AQI data viewable at the map above or via openmap.clarity.io is part of a UC pilot project to evaluate local campus conditions. Multiple PM2.5 sensors, including some solar-powered sensors, have been installed on the roof of University Hall, VLSB, Crossroads, Stanley Hall, and at Lawrence Hall of Science. The Stanley Hall sensor is at the highest elevation on the central campus (excludes LHS) and will usually indicate the highest AQI reading. This sensor is the primary one referenced for smoke related campus-wide actions. This network may expand; additional data points will be shared on the map above. A California-specific wildfire smoke correction factor has been applied to the data presented on this map, based on co-location studies of Clarity PM2.5 sensors at reference monitor sites. You may co-display campus sensor data with nearby reference monitors by clicking on data points and choosing “show in plot.” EH&S has also installed some indoor sensors to evaluate indoor air quality; these indoor data points are not posted to the public map but are monitored to assist with campus decision-making. Please contact EH&S at 510-642-3073 or ehs@berkeley.edu regarding indoor air quality concerns.

 

Other Resources:

If your site is not represented by the Campus Air Quality Map, please refer to the following resources for information about local air quality conditions and take actions consistent with our University of California AQI‐Based Decision‐Making Matrix for Wildfire Smoke Events or consult EH&S for assistance.  

​Fire and Smoke Map: fire.airnow.gov

The new Fire and Smoke Map available at https://fire.airnow.gov/ is an excellent platform to view reference monitors, temporary monitors, sensor data, fire incidents, and smoke plumes on the same platform. The map is updated hourly and reports data as “Current AQI” using the EPA’s PM2.5 NowCast AQI algorithm. The USFS also provides a free modeling tool called BlueSky.

PurpleAir Sensors: Widespread citizen science, data viewable at purpleair.com

Distribution across public spaces, businesses, and private homes makes this network valuable for comparing neighborhoods and regions. Real-time data is helpful to see if conditions are improving or worsening; however, uncorrected data may overestimate PM2.5 concentrations and sub-hourly data should not directly be compared to the AQI health scale (learn more about the AQI here). For better comparison to reference monitors, on the PurpleAir map set the reporting time to one hour and use the embedded "US EPA" wildfire smoke conversion; or view outdoor PurpleAir sensor data as hourly PM2.5 NowCast AQI via https://fire.airnow.gov/.