Air quality in Newcastle

Air quality index (AQI) and PM2.5 air pollution in Newcastle

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Weather

What is the current weather in Newcastle?

Weather icon
WeatherBroken clouds
Temperature71.6°F
Humidity94%
Wind2.9 mp/h
Pressure30 Hg

live aqi city ranking

Real-time Australia city ranking

#cityUS AQI
1 Spencer Gulf, South Australia

71

2 Singleton, New South Wales

42

3 Newcastle, New South Wales

26

4 Townsville, Queensland

17

5 Merriwa, New South Wales

15

6 Canberra, ACT

14

7 Gladstone, Queensland

13

8 Adelaide, South Australia

12

9 Geelong, Victoria

11

10 Melbourne, Victoria

11

(local time)

SEE WORLD AQI RANKING

live Newcastle aqi ranking

Real-time Newcastle air quality ranking

#stationUS AQI
1 Newcastle Station2

26

2 Beresfield

25

3 Morisset

20

4 Valentine Crescent

7

5 Bulga

0

(local time)

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US AQI

7

live AQI index
Good

Human face indicating AQI level

Overview

What is the current air quality in Newcastle?

Air pollution levelAir quality indexMain pollutant
Good 7 US AQItrendPM2.5
PollutantsConcentration
PM2.5
1.8µg/m³trend
O3
0µg/m³
NO2
0µg/m³
SO2
0µg/m³

PM2.5 concentration in Newcastle air currently meets the WHO annual air quality guideline value

Health Recommendations

What is the current air quality in Newcastle?

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Forecast

Newcastle air quality index (AQI) forecast

DayPollution levelWeatherTemperatureWind
Thursday, Feb 29

Good 36 AQI US

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon
105.8° 68°
Wind rotating 151 degree 13.4 mp/h
Friday, Mar 1

Good 48 AQI US

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon
98.6° 68°
Wind rotating 120 degree 8.9 mp/h
Saturday, Mar 2

Good 29 AQI US

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon
93.2° 69.8°
Wind rotating 176 degree 11.2 mp/h
Today

Good 7 AQI US

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon 100%
93.2° 69.8°
Wind rotating 176 degree 11.2 mp/h
Monday, Mar 4

Good 50 AQI US

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon 60%
93.2° 68°
Wind rotating 166 degree 6.7 mp/h
Tuesday, Mar 5

Good 15 AQI US

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon 90%
69.8° 62.6°
Wind rotating 155 degree 8.9 mp/h
Wednesday, Mar 6

Good 16 AQI US

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon
80.6° 57.2°
Wind rotating 109 degree 6.7 mp/h
Thursday, Mar 7

Good 22 AQI US

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon
89.6° 57.2°
Wind rotating 95 degree 4.5 mp/h
Friday, Mar 8

Good 19 AQI US

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon
89.6° 64.4°
Wind rotating 131 degree 8.9 mp/h
Saturday, Mar 9

Good 13 AQI US

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon
87.8° 64.4°
Wind rotating 113 degree 8.9 mp/h

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AIR QUALITY ANALYSIS AND STATISTICS FOR Newcastle

How bad is air quality in Newcastle?

Like much of Australia, Newcastle air quality is relatively healthy most of the year round, but it is also vulnerable to the impacts of extreme short-term pollution events, such as bushfires and dust storms. Newcastle originated as a settlement developed around coal mines, and accordingly it has historically experienced smoky air pollution emissions related to its coal industry.1 However, in recent years air quality management through the New South Wales local state government have decreased smoke emissions from coal, and Newcastle’s air pollution episodes are now more commonly related to wildfires and natural dust storm episodes.1


During 2019, Newcastle air pollution ranked as Australia’s 7th most polluted city for hazardous fine particle pollution out of a total of 95 monitored cities, included in IQAir’s 2019 World Air Quality Report.2 Newcastle averaged an annual PM2.5 concentration of 12.5 μg/m3 during 2019, which exceeds both Australia’s national standard target for annual PM2.5 of 8 μg/m3, and the World Health Organisation’s recommended annual limit of 10 μg/m3. Newcastle’s air pollution average also represented a noticeable increase from the previous two years, when it averaged 7.9 μg/m3 in 2018, and 7.4 μg/m3 in 2017.2 This increase during 2019 may be linked to the devastating wildfires that blazed across Australia during the summer months of 2019-2020, which came to be known as Australia’s “black summer”. While Australia has long experienced bushfires during the summer months, the black summer’s fires were particularly widespread and vicious, partly due to record-breaking temperatures and dry conditions that summer. These conditions have been associated with the broader trend of increasing global temperatures as part of climate change. Newcastle’s state of New South Wales was the worst affected state across Australia, suffering both extensive damage to bush land and extremely high levels of air pollution from the smoke.3


Live air quality readings from Newcastle can be followed at the top of this page, along with a 7-day air quality forecast. The dynamic air quality map also includes wildfire information alongside air pollution data.

What are the main sources of pollution in Newcastle?

The main pollutants of concern in Newcastle are particulate matter: both fine particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5) and coarse particles below 10 microns in diameter (PM10). A New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (EPA) study found that the main sources contributing to particle pollution across the Lower Hunter area, which includes Newcastle, and its surrounding suburbs of Stockton, Beresfield and Mayfield, included sea salt blown in from the ocean, wood smoke from heating and wildfires, soil dust, vehicle exhausts and nitrate from industry.4

What are the health effects of air pollution in Newcastle?

Particulate matter is broadly recognised as the most hazardous pollutant to human health, since the particles’ microscopic size enable them to travel deep into the human system when inhaled, entering the human bloodstream. Short term health effects can include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, while long-term exposure can result in increased risk of heart disease, respiratory diseases, and lung cancer. A doctor from Doctors for the Environment Australia compared the health impacts of New South Wales air pollution to ‘smoking without consent’, emphasising that even during bushfires, the bushfire smoke mingles with other sources such as cars and coal-fired power stations, representing a toxic mixture of particle pollution for human health.5

Why is Newcastle so smoky?

Historically, Australia’s experiences with smoke pollution can be traced to the origins of its coal mining industry. After coal was discovered 160 km north of Sydney in 1797, a second mining penal colony was set up to mine the coal in 1804, originally under the name ‘Coal River’. However, this name later changed to Newcastle, named after the English city which was Britain’s ‘great centre of coal mining’.1 Initially seen as a positive symbol of industrial and economic progress, the Newcastle area’s coal industry was later recognised also as a contributor to the detrimental visible and health effects of smoke pollution.1


Air quality governance in New South Wales and Australia more broadly were historically influenced by management initiatives of theUnited Kingdom’s air quality. The huge death toll of the UK’s infamousLondon smog of 1952 showed the world the frighteningly real health impacts of smoke-related air pollution, and prompted the UK to implement its Clean Air Act in 1956. The New South Wales parliament followed suit shortly after, by setting up a Smoke Abatement Committee in 1955, to investigate the causes of air pollution in the state. This was followed by the state passing its own NSWClean Air Act in 1961, which was administered through the Public Health Department’s new Air Pollution Control Branch, which had offices in Sydney, Newcastle, and Wollongong.1 This marked the beginning of New South Wales’ modern air quality management, which has helped smoke abatement in Newcastle and neighbouring cities since.


However, researchers observe that there is still room for improvement in NSW’s air quality management, particularly a lack of an adequate ‘control strategy’ to minimise background concentrations of air pollutants year-round.6 Critics from Environmental Justice Australia suggest that this lack of control strategy leads to even higher pollution peaks during extreme events such as bushfires, while also resulting in Newcastle having some of the highest year-round pollution levels in the state, due to coal mines, power stations and industry.6

What is being done about air pollution in Newcastle?

Newcastle air quality is managed through both local stateNew South Wales air quality governance, and nationalAustralia air quality policies. The NSW government aims to achieve the nationwide targets for air quality, known as the National Environment Protection Measures (NEPM). Established in 1998, these targets establish standards that air pollution should stay within. The national PM2.5 standard is 8 μg/m3 for an annual mean concentration, and a 25 μg/m3 limit for 1 day (24 hours) of exposure. The PM10 standard is 25 μg/m3 as an annual mean concentration, with a 50 μg/m3 limit for 1 day exposure.7


The New South Wales government also runs a network of air quality monitors in and around Newcastle. While they have several monitors around the broader Lower Hunter area, these are categorised separately as ‘The Lower Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network’, including sensors at Newcastle, Beresfield and Wallsend; while ‘The Newcastle Local Air Quality Monitoring Network’ includes sensors at Carrington, Mayfield and Stockton.8 These networks monitor pollutants including PM2.5, PM10, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. The NSW Government then communicates these readings to the public using a version of the Australian Air Quality Index system, to quickly convey the associated level of health risk from a range of different pollutants. However, the NSW Government uses a slight alteration of the national system to report a Newcastle air quality index, rather adopting their own system called ‘air quality categories’. The Newcastle AQI is therefore communicated to the public in colour coded categories, from green representing “Good” air quality, to deep red indicating “Extremely poor” air quality.9

+ Article resources

[1] Nancy Cushing. “Australia’s smoke city: air pollution in Newcastle”. Australian Economic History Review 49.1, March, 2009. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8446.2008.00247.x.
[2] IQAir. “2019 World Air Quality Report”. IQAir website, March 18, 2020.
[3] Justine Calma. “What you need to know about the Australia bushfires”. The Verge, Feburary 13, 2020.
[4] NSW Government & NSE Environment Protection Authority. “Particles in Lower Hunter”. NSW Government and EPA website, April, 2016.
[5] Steven Trask. “Bushfire health impacts ‘awful’: doctor”. Newcastle Herald, December 4, 2019.
[6] Matthew Kelly. “Newcastle records the highest levels of fine particle pollution of anywhere in the state”. Newcastle Herald, November 1, 2019.
[7] Australian Government. “National air quality standards: Ambient air quality (2016). Australian Government website, 2016.
[8] NSW Government. “Air quality monitoring in the Lower Hunter and on the Central Coast”. NSW Government Department of Planning, Industry and Environment website, December 18, 2019.
[9] NSW Government. “About the air quality categories”. NSW Government website, November 6, 2020.

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