Fires

How bad is Sacramento’s air, exactly? Google results appear at odds with reality, some say

See smoke billowing into the sky at the Carr Fire

Smoke is affecting air quality all over California. Here's what it looks like at the Carr Fire, north of Redding, on July 31, 2018.
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Smoke is affecting air quality all over California. Here's what it looks like at the Carr Fire, north of Redding, on July 31, 2018.

Smoke from major Northern California wildfires has made its way to the Sacramento region, bringing unhealthy air conditions that prompted county air officials to issue a weeklong warning starting Monday.

But some online search results for air quality in Sacramento appear to conflict with each other, and at least one prominent source appears to have data that is either incorrect, incomplete or misleading.

Some locals — including meteorologists — have taken to Twitter to call out Google’s search result widget for air quality in the city, saying the readings have been “seriously inaccurate” for several days.

Google’s top result, which is sourced from BreezoMeter.com, listed Sacramento’s air quality as “good” as of 7 a.m. Tuesday, marking the conditions as “ideal air quality for outdoor activities.”

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Air quality result for Sacramento on Google, Tuesday, July 7, 2018. Google

Matters were apparently much worse Monday evening. BreezoMeter’s readings were still marking conditions as “good,” meaning air quality index readings below 50. Meanwhile, multiple other air quality maps showed the AQI was actually closer to the mid- to high-200s.

Tuesday’s AQI reading was 49 by 7 a.m. according to BreezoMeter. But this mark appears to be a morning measurement, not a daily forecast. The AirNow forecast for Tuesday also showed good conditions in the morning, but the forecast calls for a high AQI of 133. AQI forecasts for Auburn, Folsom and Placerville were all above 150.

AQI readings found via the internet vary by source, but some patterns seem consistent: Though an air warning is in place for Sacramento County, air quality maps suggest the city itself should fare better Tuesday and Wednesday than it did Monday, and also better than surrounding suburbs. The Folsom and Placerville areas appear to have the worst of it in the region; BreezoMeter measured the AQI at 113 in Folsom by 7 a.m. Tuesday. PurpleAir had Folsom’s air index at about 155 by 8 a.m.

The smoke has billowed toward Sacramento from the north, where the Mendocino Complex Fire — now the state’s biggest wildfire on record and still growing — had scorched nearly 300,000 acres as of Tuesday morning. Smoke also poured in from the Carr Fire, a 160,000-plus acre fire that has burned for more than two weeks in Shasta County.

Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District issued a warning, in place through Friday, advising residents to avoid or limit outdoor activities due to the influx of smoke.

“Older adults, people with chronic diseases and young children are most at risk and should avoid outside activities if they see or smell smoke,” Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said in Monday’s statement from the air district.

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