During wildfire season, it’s important to monitor the AQI, or air quality index, frequently, as levels can change by the hour. You should start getting concerned when the AQI reaches above 100.

There are a growing number of options for monitoring air quality. One trend is toward neighborhood-level monitoring, made possible by crowdsourced data from private sensors. There can be discrepancies and glitches in all systems, but quality control is a big part of the effort. 

The AirNow fire and smoke map draws from both government sensors and private data from PurpleAir.

Here are a few of the most popular options for checking air quality near you: 

Each of the above options display AQI readings as a number and a color, most of which appear on maps updated dozens of times a day. The East Bay remains green for most of the year, meaning the concentration of pollutants is scored below 50. That means the air is safe outside.

When the AQI rises above 100, entering the orange stage, it triggers a Spare the Air alert, encouraging you to drive less and use combustible sources of fuel as little as possible. The BAAQMD, which issues those alerts, says particulate matter is the most common form of pollutant between November and February. It issued more alerts in 2020 than ever before.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that the BAAQMD’s official air quality station in Berkeley has been down since October 2021, when it was vandalizedIt wafixed as of this January, but went off-line again in June.

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Freelancer Catherine "Kate" Rauch has been contributing to Berkeleyside for several years. Her work as a journalist has encompassed everything from 10 years as a daily news reporter for the East Bay Times,...