Metro Vancouver region air quality: Useful links, data, webcams, monitoring

Webcam image at 2 pm, before port fire on 4-Mar-2015

Webcam image at 2 pm, before port fire on 4-Mar-2015

Anyone looking out or moving around outside today, might notice the poor air quality. You can see it. You can smell it. You can taste it. What’s it all about? Where can you get real-time pictures and data about air quality? What are the main sources of air pollution in the region? And what citizens can do to improve air quality?  

First of all, national, provincial, and regional governments have a vast amount of information available. This is probably a good use of tax money. Let’s use the tools available.

The Clear Air BC website provides webcam photos updated hourly, showing air quality in Abbotsford, Burnaby, Chilliwack, Lions Bay, Pitt Meadows, and Vancouver Harbour (example at top of this post). It is supported by Government of Canada, Metro Vancouver, Government of British Columbia, and Fraser Valley Regional District.

Metro Vancouver has a nifty interactive GIS map showing hourly readings at air quality monitoring sites. Click on any one of nearly 30 monitoring stations.

Health impacts?
Microscopic air pollution particles can penetrate into the lungs and have been linked to respiratory and cardiac disease. Wikipedia provides a summary of the health effects of air pollution. Warning: It’s nasty.

What is air pollution?
Common forms are nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ammonia (NH3) or very small particles, called fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

Sources of air pollution?
This chart on Clear Air BC shows sources of the 147,693 tonnes of smog-forming emissions generated in the Lower Fraser Valley in 2005.


Air pollution is related to economic activity. Many road and building projects are currently underway in the Lower Mainland today. As an example the construction site for a tower in Vancouver’s West End (1061 Broughton) required 70 cement truck deliveries and two large concrete boom pump trucks running all in just one day (noted on Sept. 12, 2013).

Everyone needs to work to improve air quality. Governments at three levels. Citizens. And industry.

Here are some action tips for citizens to improve visual air quality, summarized from the Clean Air BC site.

  1. Drive less.
  2. Avoid idling.
  3. Get regular tune-ups.
  4. Consider a cleaner vehicle.
  5. Avoid using gas-powered tools.
  6. If you use wood for fuel, use it wisely.
  7. Consider a switch (e.g., for a new stove or heating appliance, choose cleaner alternatives).
  8. Say “no” to backyard burning.
  9. Participate in BC’s “Scrap It” Program to get older vehicles off the road.
  10. Get involved. Join or create a local air quality management group to work with your local government to improve air quality in your community.

Source: BC Air Action Plan

Other information sources

BC Air Quality
Provincial government website with much information about regulations and issues.

 Annual Air Quality Report
Metro Vancouver publishes an annual report summarizing data from the Lower Fraser Valley Air Quality Network.

Environment Canada, Pacific and Yukon Region, provides a lot of information on its air quality health index: See


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