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Purple Air (real time air quality) Map: Compare with AirNow and WAQI

A neighbor suggested I look at Purple Air (not to be confused with Purple Rain :) for local outdoor air quality readings. It seems to be a combination business and citizen scientist endeavor and it took me down the AQI rabbit hole, which is not a bad journey to take when one is lucky enough to be trapped indoors with creature comforts.

We seem to have 2 or more Purple Air citizen scientists in our midst who upload their sensors' data to the Purple Air public page so you can get some real time Mt. Tabor data. The air quality maps you can create are illuminating or terrifying however you want to look at them.

Contrast Purple Air AQ readings with 2 other AQI (air quality index) sites we use before venturing outdoors. Expect wildly varying readings any time. E.g. Last night (9/12), one showed a 450 AQI (bad enough) for our part of SE, but a Purple Air local Mt. Tabor real time AQI reading showed well over 600 (aghhhh!).

The Public Lab wiki is another place to read more about Purple Air.

Air quality experts will explain why varying readings at different locations are not a surprise even when only a few blocks apart so don’t try to “common sense” your way through the science, except for the simple explanation of Where the Sensor is Located Matters. AQI readings are more complex than that so talk to the experts.

1) World Air Quality Index project (a dot org site), which updates its Portland data every 3-5 hours

2) Airnow (a dot gov site) also has local AQI data

All will give you local AQI (air quality index) readings, but from different locations and at different times. You can make the comparison a research project if you need such a thing to stay sane right now or if you have a student scientist in your household who wants an interesting science project.

URLs cited in this blog post:

Please feel free to email us here at MTNA if you have corrections and additional information. You can also write a new blog post and I’ll post it for you as a Guest Blogger. Or, volunteer to be a fellow MTNA blogger: email

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