|1||La Grange Park, Illinois|
|3||New Berlin, Illinois|
|4||Park City, Illinois|
|5||Saint Charles, Illinois|
|10||Rice Lake, Wisconsin|
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|1||Desert Mountain Estates - Carnuel NM|
|9||Villa Sandia Place Northeast|
|10||Big Sky Hang Glider Park|
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live AQI index
|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Good|| 13 US AQI||PM2.5|
PM2.5 concentration in Albuquerque air currently meets the WHO annual air quality guideline value
|Open your windows to bring clean, fresh air indoors|
|Enjoy outdoor activities|
|Friday, Dec 2|
Good 41 US AQI
|Saturday, Dec 3|
Good 46 US AQI
|Sunday, Dec 4|
Good 39 US AQI
Good 13 US AQI
|Tuesday, Dec 6|
Good 15 US AQI
|Wednesday, Dec 7|
Good 7 US AQI
|Thursday, Dec 8|
Good 5 US AQI
|Friday, Dec 9|
Good 5 US AQI
|Saturday, Dec 10|
Good 5 US AQI
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Albuquerque air quality has achieved an annual mean in the “good” air quality index (AQI) category since at least 2000. The Air Quality Index is calculated by weighting six major air pollutants for threat to health, including ozone (O3), PM2.5, PM10, carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
In 2017, 2018, and 2019, Albuquerque annual air quality index was 23, 24, and 25, respectively. All three recent annual AQI values were below 50 and were therefore within the “good” category. The “good” distinction indicates that breathing the air typically poses little to no risk to human health.
Despite healthy annual means, short-term pollution spikes still pose health risks to residents. Albuquerque ozone levels received a failing grade by the American Lung Association's 2019 “State of the Air” report as a result of exceeding the federal allowance of 3.2 unhealthy ozone days.1 From 2016 to 2018, Albuquerque experienced a weighted average of 6.3 unhealthy ozone days annually, nearly double the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) target. Compared to other regions in the US for the same measure, the Albuquerque-Santa Fe-Las Vegas, New Mexico area is ranked 42 for high ozone days out of 229 included metropolitan areas.
Each unhealthy ozone day presents risks to individuals sensitive to air pollution in Albuquerque. Bernalillo County, of which Albuquerque is the county seat, has 63,480 residents with asthma, 32,622 with COPD, 250 with lung cancer, 42,466 with heart disease, 147,370 children under 18, and 111,216 adults over 65, All of whom are prone to experiencing adverse health effects such as coughing, breathing difficulty, chest pain, and throat irritation, among more severe consequences. During “orange” level days with AQI levels between 101 and 150, sensitive individuals are encouraged to minimize heavy or prolonged exertion outdoors. During “red” level days with AQI levels between 151 and 200, sensitive individuals and the general public are advised to take precautions to avoid health effects, such as limiting time outdoors.
Monitor Albuquerque air pollution data presented at the top of this page to stay aware of pollution spikes and health advisories. Albuquerque forecast air quality data can be used to plan ahead to avoid outdoor activity when pollution levels are risky.
November, December, January, and February tend to be Albuquerque’s most polluted months, often carrying up to two times the pollution burden of the summer months. Elevated pollution levels through these months reflect increased emissions as a result of building heating, wood burning and car idling, as well the influence of temperature inversions, a weather event in which cold polluted ground level air becomes trapped by a denser, warmer air layer above.
Temperature inversions give way to Albuquerque’s infamous “brown cloud.” Warm air caps colder air below, preventing the normal dispersion of air pollution in the atmosphere. This effect is often exacerbated by Albuquerque’s terrain. The city lies in a valley known as the Albuquerque Basin, surrounded by the Sandia–Manzano Mountains to the east and the West Mesa to the west.2 These mountains create a natural barrier, contributing to lighter winds and more stagnant air as well as exacerbating to the temperature inversion effect. Other factors that contribute or prolong a temperature inversion include seasonal or weather dependent conditions like snow cover and sparse sunlight (as a result of nightfall, sun angle, or cloudy conditions).
While temperature inversions and increased emissions result in elevated PM2.5 and overall AQI levels in Albuquerque winter months, the city’s challenges with ozone predominantly occur in the summer months from April to August. Ozone formation requires sunlight and heat to create a reaction between precursor pollutants. This characteristic explains its prominence in the summer and during the afternoon, when both sunshine and heat are most abundant.
Albuquerque air pollution is attributed to a combination of mobile sources (motor vehicles and planes), stationary sources (power plants, oil refineries and factories), and area sources (agricultural areas and wood burning fireplaces).
Mobile sources, including emissions from cars, trucks, trains and planes, comprise the largest single contributor to Albuquerque air pollution, particularly contributing to Albuquerque’s ozone challenges. Mayor Tim Keller, in striving to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accord,pledged to convert 63 percent of the city’s light-duty car fleet to electric or hybrid vehicles by 2025.3 By setting the precedent with government-operated vehicles and establishing a city-wide electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, Mayor Keller hopes to drive the adoption of EVs by residents.
Stationary emission sources in Albuquerque include the Four Corners Power Plant, one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the world, and several oil refineries located outside of Albuquerque.4
Wildfires in late summer and fall as well as wood burning stoves primarily used in the winter further contribute to Albuquerque air quality status, often giving way to spikes in particle pollution such as PM2.5. These “area” pollution sources can travel great distances. Wildfires in Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona have contributed to some of the most significant pollution events in recent years.5
Smoke in Albuquerque contributes to increased carbon monoxide, PM2.5, and PM10 pollution, along with numerous other air toxins. Most often, smoke is attributed to biomass burning, such as wood burning in the winter and wildfires in the late summer and early fall months.
Pollutants generated from wildfires as far as several hundred miles away can have a significant impact on Albuquerque air quality as wind transports pollution across cities and states. Recent air pollution alerts in Albuquerque have been the result of wildfires burning in Phoenix, Arizona and Tucson, Arizona.
Albuquerque has experienced mixed ratings and trends for the nation’s most widespread air pollutants, ozone, and PM2.5.
Of all of the US EPA criteria pollutants, Albuquerque currently ranks worst for ozone pollution. A long-term analysis shows wavering ozone levels since 1996 with a subtle arc towards progress. Ozone levels were the highest in 2001 to 2003 and reached their lowest point in 2014 to 2016. Since then, ozone levels have been on the rise, increasing year over year until 2018. Similar trends of increasing ozone levels have been observed in most US cities in part as a result of warming temperatures and record-breaking global heat over the last three years.
With climate change, improvements to ozone levels will be dependent on transitioning residents to lower-emission, higher-fuel efficiency vehicles, trucks, and stationary engines. Targeting these sources, which comprise the largest share of ozone precursor emissions, presents an opportunity to greatly improve Albuquerque ozone, helping the city to again achieve federal attainment levels.
PM2.5 remains another pollutant of concern in Albuquerque. Although the city has consistently made federal attainment levels since at least 2000, Albuquerque PM2.5 concentrations have been on the rise since 2010. The subtle gains in PM2.5 pollution are likely attributable to a steadily growing population, economy, and increased industrial activity.
+ Article Resources
 American Lung Association. (2020). State of the air – 2020.
 The City of Albuquerque. (2020). What is temperature inversion?
 The City of Albuquerque. (2019, June 28). Optimizing municipal electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
 Kavouras I, et al. (2014). Monitoring, source identification and health risks of air toxics in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A. DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2014.04.0075
 ABQJournal News Staff. (2020, June 17). Wildfire smoke alert for ABQ area Thursday morning.