Residents suffer through smoky air in Victoria, Australia

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On Wednesday some Air Quality Index readings were in the Very Unhealthy category or worse

Air quality in Victoria, Australia
Air quality in Victoria, Australia January 15, 2020.

Smoke from bushfires in Victoria, Australia has degraded the air quality to levels that are dangerous in some areas.

If the Air Quality Index used by for the map above is the same used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air quality in the east corner of Victoria near Mallacoota is off the scale, beyond “hazardous”, with an air quality index of 769 at one location.

Mallacoota is the community that had to be evacuated by Navy ships after fires trapped over 4,000 residents and holiday makers.

In the Melbourne area (the cluster of AQI readings in the lower-left corner) the map shows some levels above 200 which is the beginning of the Very Unhealthy for Everyone category; 300 to 500 is Hazardous, and over 500 must be a ridiculous category that the US EPA assumed would never occur. (see the chart below)

Air Quality Index
Air Quality Index, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

From NPR, January 14, 2020:

Smoke from massive wildfires in Australia hangs like a blanket over the city of Melbourne. The smog there is so thick that some of the world’s top athletes have raised alarms about player safety at the Australian Open tennis tournament, slated to kick off next week.

The air quality in Melbourne on Wednesday was forecast to be “very poor to hazardous,” according to the Environment Protection Authority in Victoria state.

The hazardous breathing conditions prompted Australian Open officials to suspend practice sessions Tuesday. But qualifying matches went on as scheduled, and one of the players later said it was “not fair” that they were asked to compete.

That player, Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic, was leading 6-4, 5-6 in her match against Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele when she was overtaken by a fit of coughing and dropped to her knees. Her breathing difficulties forced her to forfeit, handing the victory to Voegele.

Smoke from the bushfires in Australia has traveled completely around the Earth and will be over the continent again in the coming days. But it may not be visible to the naked eye.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

One thought on “Residents suffer through smoky air in Victoria, Australia”

  1. AQI indexes vary but they are often roughly equal to PM2.5 + ozone. In 2017 in Montana, the PM2.5 alone was often in the 1000’s in some places. Seeley Lake went off the top end of the PM2.5 monitor (1000) many nights and Superior MT had PM2.5 over 3000, which has also happened in Palangkaraya Indonesia. We measured impacts in Missoula here (, Indonesia here (, and a preliminary assessment of firefighter health impacts as the concluding section of this paper (


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