Up-to-the minute information about air quality in several locations around Tasmania is available at the touch of a computer key.
Real-time air quality data is now available on-line from the major stations at Hobart, Launceston and Rowella, as well as from eight stations of the new BLANkET network (Base-Line Air Network of EPA Tasmania).
Data from the major stations is updated every hour and the BLANkET network uploads information from stations in the Huon Valley and North East Tasmania every 10 to 15 minutes.
The public can access the information as tables and graphs on the EPA Division website. More information about BLANkET, including a guide to interpreting the graphs, is also provided.
The first eight BLANkET Network stations to be brought online are in areas historically affected by smoke and complement monitoring at major air stations in Hobart and the Tamar Valley by increasing the spatial coverage of air quality measurements.
While the main purposes of BLANkET is to obtain information on smoke movement and monitor public exposure to smoke produced by planned burning, the stations also record seasonal concentrations of smoke from domestic wood heaters as well as wildfire smoke.
EPA Division senior scientific officer John Innis said the stations are also able to track dust deposits such as the sand particles which blew in from the Simpson Desert in September last year.
“We also tracked the smoke from the recent York Town fire which spread throughout the State’s north east,” he said.
“It demonstrated that smoke can move significant distances from the source and still be detected even in low concentrations.”
The monitoring will be used in conjunction with a Coordinated Smoke Management Strategy developed by the Forest Practices Authority (FPA).
The FPA is working with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and representatives of various land management agencies to reduce the risk of smoke pollution within populated areas by improving the planning and conduct of planned burns.
The Strategy provides for the better prediction and co-ordination of burns - including placing restrictions to ban or limit the number of burns on days when weather forecasts predict poor smoke dispersal.
BLANkET stations operate at Lilydale, Derby, Fingal, Scottsdale, St Helens, Geeveston, Judbury and Huonville.
These stations are sited on properties owned or operated by Ben Lomond Water, Huon Valley Council, Break O Day Council, Dorset Council and Forestry Tasmania.
The BLANkET network will eventually cover a wider area, including the Derwent Valley and the north west, with up to 15 fixed stations providing year-round reports. Real-time data from the George Town air station will also be available in the near future.
To view the BLANkET network data, go to www.environment.tas.gov.au
John said the “explanatory notes” about the BLANkET network provide valuable assistance to interpret the information. He stressed that the real-time data is indicative only. Validated reference air quality data for Hobart and Launceston is available on the EPA Division website about six weeks after the end of a given month.