I’m writing this from lovely, sunny California—at least, I think it’s sunny, because smoke from
the apocalypse wildfires around Silicon Valley has been billowing around the area for about a week or so. The quirky thing about this ecological disaster is that there are sometimes days of, “oh god the sun is red,” counterbalanced by, “I guess I could fit in my afternoon walk after all.”
The easiest way to figure out air quality wherever you live is to stick your head outside. If it smells terrible, you’ll probably want to get a mask or stay indoors. If it smells joyful, you’re good to go on an adventure. What’s not so clear, though, are the fine lines that separate an unpleasant experience from a hazardous one. For that, you need someone else doing a more scientific measurement, the Air Quality Index:
So, how do you find out the Air Quality Index of your location (or, really, any location)? Let’s dig in:
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You have plenty of options for finding the Air Quality Index for any particular location. Established weather services like AccuWeather or Weather.com should have that number for any location you want. I’ve always been a fan of the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow site, which also provides Air Quality Index forecasts and historical data—even thought the site, like smoke, isn’t very easy on the eyes.
If you’d like a little more pizzazz, you’re going to have to go purple—PurpleAir, specifically, which gives you a lovely, large map full of dots to show how well you’ll be able to breathe today. You can switch between all kinds of different measurements, including the plain ol’ temperature, as well as different views (normal, satellite, topographic, and dark) and measurement averages (ranging from 10 minutes to a week, as well as real-time data).
This one’s easy: Pull up Apple Maps. As long as you’re running at least iOS 12.2, you’ll see the Air Quality Index in the lower-right corner of the screen. It’ll update as you move the map around to reflect the conditions of wherever you’re staring.
You can also find the Air Quality Index directly in the Weather app:
If you want to go big and get a lot more detailed information about the Air Quality Index in app form, you’ll want to pick up AirVisual Air Quality Forecast—an average rating of five stars with nearly 16K reviews on the App Store as of when we wrote this. The app can shoot you pollution notifications when the air quality is getting bad in your particular area, or you can just look this up yourself. You can quickly add a bunch of locations to your primary summary to see their Air Quality Index measurements at a glance, and tapping into any of them gives you a full three- to seven-day forecast, an hourly and daily history, and some handy little health recommendations.
There’s not really a weather “app” baked into Android by default, and Google’s weather widget—really, the “At a Glance” widget for the Google app—doesn’t give you the Air Quality Index. So, you’ll have to go for a third-party app if you want to research this number.
I strongly recommend checking out the Android version of AirVisual’s Air Quality app, which I just talked about for iOS. As an added bonus, you can add its Air Quality Index indicator as a widget on your Android device, which makes it absurdly easy to see the measurement for wherever you are. (And, yes, you can make the widget smaller; I only made it gigantic for the screenshot.)
I’m also a fan of the delightfully named BreezoMeter app, though it’s a wee bit harder to understand—and comes with its own measurement, the “BACQ,” or BreezoMeter Air Quality Index—which attempts to standardize the various ways different countries report air quality measurements. The app also gives you a handy way to try and track your personal exposure to crappy air based on the changing conditions wherever you happen to be: