Our 2020 air quality monitoring results show that overall, the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) risk to health rating in the region was significantly lower in 2020 when compared to 2019. Seven of our 10 continuous monitoring stations collect data used to calculate an hourly and forecast AQHI in and around Alberta’s Industrial Heartland.
In 2020, there were 16 hours of high risk and no very high risk AQHI ratings. In 2019, there were 148 and 29 hours respectively. The 2019 AQHI ratings were largely influenced by poor air quality conditions in late May and early June caused by wildfire smoke. Wintertime temperature inversions were also a significant factor. By comparison, wildfire smoke in the FAP Airshed was minimal in 2020 and only eight hours of wintertime inversions resulted in high risk AQHI ratings. These occurred January 25-29, 2020.
Overall, the region experienced low risk AQHI ratings an average of 96% of the time in 2020, a two percent improvement over 2019 and eight percent improvement compared to 2018. This increase in low risk AQHI percentage is mainly due to the more significant impact of wildfire smoke in 2018 and 2019 compared to 2020. Among FAP’s permanent stations, Elk Island had the most low risk readings at 98.4% of the time, while Gibbons had the least amount of low risk readings, at 92.2% of the time.
During 2020, there were 33 occurrences across FAP’s ten monitoring stations where air quality measurements exceeded Alberta’s Ambient Air Quality Objectives. This was down 83% (191 occurrences, mainly from wildfire smoke) from 2019. There were various causes for the exceedances in 2020, but 42% (14) were due to wintertime inversions in January 2020. The exceedances were measurements of either fine particulate matter (76%) or hydrogen sulphide (24%).
Our 2020 air quality monitoring statistics including a five year summary of exceedances.