Smoke from bushfires, burn offs and wood heaters can be a major health hazard for many people in the community. Exposure to smoke can trigger conditions like asthma and hay fever, and make other lung and heart conditions even worse. Severe air pollution from smoke is linked to increases in ambulance call outs, hospital admissions and deaths.
Smoke is tracked through the Base Line Air Network of EPA Tasmania, also known as BLANkET. This is a network of air quality stations around Tasmania reporting near real-time particle concentrations for that location. Particle concentrations are indicative of smoke in that location. AirRater uses this data alongside advanced modelling techniques to determine likely particle concentrations across all areas of Tasmania.
In Tasmania, when we talk of air quality and particles we often mean smoke. Particles are often referred to as PM10, meaning all particles with an aerodynamic diameter of up to 10 millionths of a meter, and PM2.5, which are particles up to 2.5 millionths of a meter in aerodynamic diameter. By definition, a measurement of PM10 will include the PM2.5 particles too.
You can see more information about the BLANkET network at the EPA Tasmania.
Extremes of temperature, both hot and cold, can be a health hazard for many people. Extreme heat is linked to illness and death, particularly for vulnerable people such as the elderly, the very young and those with existing health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Extremes of cold, or sudden drops in temperature, are also linked with increases in asthma.
Tasmania can have both cold and hot spells, and these often happen quickly and with little warning. The AirRater app uses the same methodology as the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s Heatwave Service to determine when, where and how severe a forecast heatwave will be. Notifications will be sent to users in the heatwave affected area, giving them prior warning of the conditions and allowing preparations to be made to cope with the heatwave. Similarly, a forecast extreme cold spell will be notified to users in the affected area.
Research has shown that Tasmania is likely to get an increased number of warmer days and an increased number of heatwaves into the future. For more information about preparing for a heatwave, visit the Department of Health and Human Services.
Pollen is measured using a network of monitors across Tasmania, at Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, Campbell Town and Lake St Clair. These monitors capture the airborne pollen on a sticky surface, which is then read under a microscope. This involves identifying the pollen spores present on the slide, and counting the number of each species. AirRater’s pollen lab can identify up to 20 different species, with the most common allergenic pollen families listed on the app.
Pollen is very seasonal, peaking from early Spring through to early Summer. Pollen flowering time increases with warmer weather, so longer and warmer Spring and Summer seasons lead to increased amounts of pollen in the air.