Air quality in Cairns

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

LAST UPDATE (local time)

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Weather

What is the current weather in Cairns?

Weather icon
WeatherBroken clouds
Temperature86°C
Humidity70%
Wind1 mp/h
Pressure1006 mb

live aqi city ranking

Real-time Australia city ranking

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#cityUS AQI
1 Campbellfield, Victoria

64

2 Targinie, Queensland

49

3 Morwell, Victoria

40

4 Melton, Victoria

33

5 Geraldton, Western Australia

31

6 Carlton, Victoria

29

7 Emerald, Queensland

26

8 Kennington, Victoria

25

9 Springwood, Queensland

25

10 Moranbah, Queensland

24

(local time)

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live Cairns aqi ranking

Real-time Cairns air quality ranking

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City AQI based on satellite data. No ground level station currently available in Cairns.

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US AQI

13 *

live AQI index
Good

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Overview

What is the current air quality in Cairns?

Air pollution levelAir quality indexMain pollutant
Good 13 US AQIPM2.5
PollutantsConcentration
PM2.5
3.1 µg/m³

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

Health Recommendations

How to protect from air pollution in Cairns?

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Forecast

Cairns air quality index (AQI) forecast

DayPollution levelWeatherTemperatureWind
Friday, Jan 21

  US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Saturday, Jan 22

  US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Sunday, Jan 23

  US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Today

Good 13 US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon86°75.2°
Wind rotating 79 degree

4.5 mp/h

Tuesday, Jan 25

Good 10 US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon84.2°75.2°
Wind rotating 161 degree

4.5 mp/h

Wednesday, Jan 26

Good 9 US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon82.4°75.2°
Wind rotating 261 degree

4.5 mp/h

Thursday, Jan 27

Good 7 US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon80.6°75.2°
Wind rotating 125 degree

4.5 mp/h

Friday, Jan 28

Good 10 US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon80.6°75.2°
Wind rotating 112 degree

6.7 mp/h

Saturday, Jan 29

Good 7 US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon82.4°75.2°
Wind rotating 117 degree

8.9 mp/h

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Historical

Historic air quality graph for Cairns

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Reduce your air pollution exposure in Cairns

AIR QUALITY ANALYSIS AND STATISTICS FOR Cairns

How bad is the air quality in Cairns?

Cairns is located at the northeast of Queensland’s coastline, approximately 1700 km north of the state capital Brisbane, and is often known as the gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Cairns has a wet tropical climate, and is bounded by Australia’s Wet Tropics Rainforest. Accordingly, it typically experiences two main seasons, a dry season stretching from April to October, and a wet season from November to March, with monsoons that can include tropical cyclones.1 As with the rest of Queensland, and Australia, Cairns’ air quality is generally of a relatively healthy standard most of the year round; however, it can be prone to experience short-term high air pollution events, most often due to natural events such as dust storms and wildfires, in spite of the city’s wet tropical climate.

Across Queensland, the main pollutants of concern are particulate matter, which describes airborne particles less than 2.5 or 10 micrometres in diameter, abbreviated to PM2.5 and PM10 respectively. These particles are of concern firstly because their tiny size makes these pollutants of high hazard to human health, since upon inhalation, they can travel deep into the human system, even entering the bloodstream in the case of PM2.5, causing a range of health effects. Secondly, within Queensland, PM represents the pollutants that most frequently exceed Australia’s air quality standards, known as the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air) Measure (Air NEPM).2 The Air NEPM are designed to limit air pollution to a level that will minimise health risks to Australians, based on scientific evidence; therefore exceedance by a particular pollutant creates cause for concern.

Live Cairns air quality data is available at the top of this page, and can also be accessed on-the-go using the IQAir AirVisual air pollution app, along with a 7-day Cairns air quality forecast.

What are the health impacts of Cairns air pollution?

Even at low levels such as experienced in Queensland’s air quality most of the year-round, air pollution can pose risks to human health. Short-term effects of air pollution exposure can include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, and aggravation of existing conditions such as asthma. Long-term effects of air pollution exposure can include increased risk of developing cardiovascular or respiratory diseases, such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and increased risk of premature mortality.

What are the main sources of air pollution in Cairns?

Within Queensland, the main contributors to air pollution are emissions from motor vehicles and industrial activities, in addition to natural events such as dust storms and fires. Particulate matter concentrations are most strongly influenced in particular by contributions from dust storms, and smoke from bushfires, hazard-reduction burning, and agricultural burns within Queensland.2

Is Cairns Australia on fire?

In spite of Cairns’ wet tropical climate, the city, like the rest of Australia, is also vulnerable to occasionally experience wildfires. Such wildfires can be started as a result of carelessness (e.g. an accidental human spark), natural causes such as a lightning strike, or through deliberate human actions such as arson, or very rarely, from a planned or prescribed burn developing into a wildfire.3 While Australia has long experienced fires in some form on an annual basis, with an established “fire season”, evidence and concerns are growing regarding the increasing risk and extent of Australian wildfires, in tandem with rising temperatures as a result of global heating and climate change. During the summer of 2019-2020, for example, Australia experienced one of the most devastating fire seasons on record, due to several months of record-breaking temperatures, drought and low rainfall exacerbating the conditions for fires to ignite and burn for longer.

Is the risk of fire in Cairns changing?

Within Queensland, the rising temperatures as part of global heating have been linked to some extraordinary temperatures within Cairns, and unusually intense fires conditions that would not typically be experienced within with the tropical climate. Cairns’ tropical climate means that Queensland’s emergency services are typically accustomed to dividing their attentions seasonally, to wildfire control during the drier season and shifting quickly to battling cyclones and floodwaters, which are typically a much deadlier natural hazard to Queenslanders, during the wet season. However, there are particular concerns that increasing risk of fires and a prolonged fire season in Queensland could put overly challenging pressures on these emergency services, in increasing the natural hazards this service must battle through the year.4 With global heating, the fires affecting the north of Queensland around Cairns are being found to last longer, and the area to experience higher temperatures. In November 2018, Cairns broke centuries-old temperature records, which previously were set at a record 37.2°C in the year 1900, when 26 November 2018 subsequently recorded a significantly higher 42.6°C.4

While wildfires cause enormous devastation directly, the indirect health impacts are estimated to be even deadlier, from the widespread inhalation of smoke that accompanies such events. During the black summer’s wildfires, while a tragic 33 deaths were recorded as a direct results of the fires, a study in theMedical Journal of Australia estimated that more than 400 people died prematurely as a result of smoke exposure, along with over 3,000 extra hospitalisations for cardiorespiratory problems, and more than 1,300 additional hospital attendances from asthma attacks.5

Live wildfire updates are provided within the dynamic Cairns air quality map at the top of this page.

What is Cairns doing about air pollution?

Cairns Regional Council is responsible for enforcing legislation relating to air pollution emissions under Australia’sEnvironmental Protection Act 1994, which includes causing environmental nuisances caused by dust or backyard burning. Cairns Council therefore receives complaints of any such nuisances, and investigates the source, administering an appropriate penalty if the investigation finds that a legitimate offence has occurred. These penalties can include a fine, issuing a Direction Notice to the offender with a timeframe to resolve the issue, or prosecuting the offender in court.6

+ Additional resources

[1] Cairns Tourism. “Cairns weather forecast & climate”. Cairns-Tourism website, n.d.
[2] Queensland Government. “Particulate concentrations”. Queensland Government State of the Environment website, Feburary 12, 2020.
[3] Cairns Regional Council. “Wild fire”. Cairns Regional Council website, June 16, 2020.
[4] Ben Smee. “Bushfires in the tropics: Queensland faces terrifying new reality”. The Guardian, December 3, 2018.
[5] John Pickrell. “Smoke from Australia’s bushfires killed far more people than the fires did, study says.” The Guardian, March 20, 2020.
[6] Cairns Regional Council. “Dust”. Cairns Regional Council website, June 16, 2020.

Where is the cleanest air quality in Cairns?

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