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What Are We Breathing? Why I Wouldn’t Trust Accuweather, Google, and IQAir

What Are We Breathing? Why I Wouldn’t Trust Accuweather, Google, and IQAir

Let’s talk about the air quality in Khabarovsk, a city located in the far east of Russia. Currently, the city is facing a serious problem: it’s blanketed in smoke from forest fires. But what information do we have about the air quality?
If we look at popular weather services like Accuweather, Windy, Google, and Yandex.Weather (a Russian service), all except Google say that the air quality in Khabarovsk seems “moderate.” This is strange considering the city is heavily affected by smoke.
In such cases, we have to turn to specialized services that pay closer attention to air quality, like IQAir (also known as AirVisual),, Breezometer, and (a public network). For instance, IQAir builds a fairly accurate model of smoke dispersion from fires, but it also makes mistakes, indicating “moderate” pollution levels.

It’s important to note that networks like Breezometer and honestly report the absence of data from this location.
Why is that? Most services try to fill in information gaps using pollution dispersion modeling and satellite data. However, in regions where there are no sensors or satellite images, this approach may not be accurate enough. Therefore, it’s important to have civic initiatives that collect their own data.
For example, we have the Nebo civic network. We collect data from the area with the help of residents and display it on an open map. This data is more accurate and up-to-date than that of big companies like IQAir, Accuweather, Yandex, Windy, or Google.
And you don’t necessarily have to use Nebo sensors to collect data; you can use sensors from IQAir or Purpleair. They all provide a good level of data.

If you don’t see an actual sensor on the map of your city, then I would advise trusting your feelings, the sensor on your air purifier, and your nose. It’s better than relying on modeled data with “average” values.

It’s important to understand that networks like Nebo don’t replace government air monitoring networks. But they are important when government agencies and tech companies can’t or won’t collect data. Nebo is an important addition to getting more accurate information.
At the time of writing this article, according to Nebo data, the air pollution level in Khabarovsk is characterized as “Hazardous” on the AQI scale. Data from all mentioned services were taken for the same period.

This is just one example among many that show how data on our planet is still extremely limited, while the climate crisis is already upon us. Everyone has the right to accurate and up-to-date information.