Air quality in Austin

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

LAST UPDATE (local time)

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Air Quality contributors Sources

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Weather

What is the current weather in Austin?

Weather icon
WeatherScattered clouds
Temperature77°C
Humidity44%
Wind4.6 mp/h
Pressure1017 mb

live aqi city ranking

Real-time USA city ranking

#cityUS AQI
1 Laurel, Maryland

194

2 Peaceful Valley, Washington

153

3 North Augusta, South Carolina

151

4 Rice Lake, Wisconsin

141

5 Del Rey, California

105

6 Riverview, Florida

105

7 West Park, California

103

8 Easton, California

99

9 Tulare, California

99

10 Fresno, California

93

(local time)

SEE WORLD AQI RANKING

live Austin aqi ranking

Real-time Austin air quality ranking

#stationUS AQI
1 Austin Northwest C3

56

2 Bismark Drive

55

3 University of Texas - Memorial Stadium

54

4 Inglewood Street

53

5 University of Texas - Disch-Falk Field

53

6 University of Texas - Goldsmith Hall

53

7 Salina Street

52

8 University of Texas - East Mall

52

9 University of Texas - Museum of Art

52

10 University of Texas - Nursing School

52

(local time)

SEE WORLD AQI RANKING

US AQI

48

live AQI index
Good

Human face indicating AQI level

Overview

What is the current air quality in Austin?

Air pollution levelAir quality indexMain pollutant
Good 48 US AQItrendPM2.5
PollutantsConcentration
PM2.5
11.7 µg/m³trend

Health Recommendations

How to protect from air pollution in Austin?

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Forecast

Austin air quality index (AQI) forecast

DayPollution levelWeatherTemperatureWind
Saturday, Feb 20

Good 44 US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Sunday, Feb 21

Good 24 US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Monday, Feb 22

Good 27 US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Tuesday, Feb 23

Good 41 US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon78.8°55.4°
Wind rotating 237 degree

6.7 mp/h

Today

Good 49 US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon57.2°51.8°
Wind rotating 36 degree

6.7 mp/h

Thursday, Feb 25

Moderate 60 US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon62.6°53.6°
Wind rotating 9 degree

2.2 mp/h

Friday, Feb 26

Moderate 58 US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon69.8°60.8°
Wind rotating 171 degree

6.7 mp/h

Saturday, Feb 27

Good 36 US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon73.4°60.8°
Wind rotating 176 degree

8.9 mp/h

Sunday, Feb 28

Good 40 US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon59°48.2°
Wind rotating 14 degree

11.2 mp/h

Monday, Mar 1

Moderate 55 US AQI

Human face indicating AQI level
Weather icon55.4°46.4°
Wind rotating 357 degree

6.7 mp/h

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Historical

Historic air quality graph for Austin

How to best protect from air pollution?

Reduce your air pollution exposure in Austin

AIR QUALITY ANALYSIS AND STATISTICS FOR Austin

What is the air quality in Austin?

Austin air quality is relatively clean compared to that of other major cities in Texas. Since at least 2005, Austin’s air quality index (AQI) averaged less than 50 (“good”) annually, indicating that the air poses little to no risk to health.


In 2019, November and December were Austin’s most polluted months, with AQI averages of 52 and 51 (“moderate”) respectively. This differed from previous years, such as in 2016, 2017 and 2018, where the summer months of July and August were the most polluted.


Despite low annual and monthly averages, Austin air quality varies more significantly day to day and hour to hour. From 2016 to 2018, Austin experienced a weighted average of 3.3 unhealthy ozone days and 1.3 unhealthy PM2.5 days.1 On average, 36% of hours were rated an AQI of “moderate,” while 1% was “unhealthy for sensitive groups”.2


The World Health Organization has set an even more stringent standard for PM2.5 than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recommending no more than 10 μg/m3 of annual exposure (compared to the 12 μg/m3 for the US EPA). According to this guideline, Austin experienced seven months of unhealthy air. Moreover, while levels within this PM2.5 target are recommended, the WHO states that no level of exposure has been shown to be free of health impacts.3


Ozone is another pollutant that poses health risks to Austinites. Ozone is a gas pollutant formed in the air when precursor pollutants react in sunlight. Since Austin has a relatively warm climate with abundant sunshine, the city faces challenges in meeting federal standards. Travis County, where Austin is located, has an “F” rating for ozone pollution, with 3.3 unhealthy ozone days. This is just barely above the 3.2 unhealthy days federal limit, and was the closest Travis county has ever been to making an attainment since recording began in 1996.


Follow Austin live air quality data at the top of this page, and use forecast air quality data in Austin to stay one step ahead of air pollution by taking recommended preventative actions.

Has air quality improved in Austin?

Overall, PM2.5 and ozone air pollution levels have steadily improved in Austin since 2011. 2018 and 2019, however, were off-trend, experiencing an increase in both pollutant levels.


For PM2.5, Austin experienced an 8.8% increase from 2017 to 2018, and another 13.8% increase from 2018 to 2019. The increase in particulate matter was similarly noted in other Texas cities, such as San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. Common to all Texas cities is a sharp rise in illegal industrial and petroleum activity. A report published by the Environment Texas Research and Policy Center found that Texas oil and gas facilities released 135 million pounds of illegal air pollution in 2018, more than double the amount from the year before in 2017.4


Low fines amounting to roughly one cent per pound of illegal air pollution has likely resulted in increased abuse. The problem is not an issue of legislation, but rather weak enforcement, as only 1/100th of what could be levied is typically being charged.


Another likely contributor to increased air pollution in Austin is the city’s growing population and worsening traffic. Austin is now the 14th most congested city in the United States, with the average resident spending roughly 66 hours annually stuck in traffic.5 This figure has risen steadily since 2009. There is hope, however, of reduced emissions here with the recent surge of electric vehicle ownership. As of February 2020, 10,000 electric vehicles have been registered in Austin, representing an average annual increase of 39% over the past five years.6 An increase in electric vehicles is likely to significantly reduce Austin AQI, as transportation remains the largest contributor to the city’s air quality.


2020 may see reduced air pollution levels, particularly owing to fewer vehicles on the road. During the coronavirus pandemic, Austin air quality improved the most out of all Texas cities, with an ozone reduction of 24% from March 11 to April 13, and 16% from March 11 to April 30.7 These improvements highlight what Austin’s air quality could look like if vehicular emissions were reduced either by fewer cars on the road or a greater share of electric/hybrid vehicles. Experts warn, however, that these reductions are only temporary. Long-term improvements must be created by reducing transportation emissions assuming normal activity, supporting clean and renewable energy, and increasing regulation for industrial polluters.

Why does Austin have unhealthy air quality?

Transportation and industry represent the largest contributing sources of air pollution in Austin.


While an increase in vehicles has contributed to worsening congestions throughout the city, the surge of electric vehicle ownership spotlights an opportunity for reduced emissions in the future.


Texas’s well-known oil and gas industry is another significant contributor, as PM2.5 and ozone pollution can travel far distances, even from refineries far outside the city limits.


Environmentalists and public health advocates have concerns that regulatory rollbacks within this industry by the Trump administration could exacerbate this problem by undermining previously established standards.8 In addition, during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TECQ) relaxed enforcement of EPA requirements for leak detection and repairs and allowed power plant operators to regulate themselves, citing health concerns for traveling agents.9 Noting that this industry already released 135 million pounds of illegal air pollution in 2018, many criticize this decision as opening the door for more air pollution in Austin.


Sandstorms represent a rare though not uncommon pollution event in Austin, which can occur when trade winds carry dust from the Sahara 5,000 miles over the Atlantic to Central Texas.10 This last occurred in June of 2020, causing air quality levels to rise to “unhealthy” levels for several days. These weather events are more likely to occur in the spring and summer.


Austin AQI varies across the city, as hyperlocal emission sources can have significant effects on an area’s air quality. Use the Austin air pollution map to understand the impact of emission sources near and far as they move with wind.


+ Article Resources

[1] American Lung Association. (2019). State of the air – 2019.
[2] Capital Area Council of Governments. (2020). Central Texas air pollution levels compared to national standards.
[3] World Health Organization. (2020). Air quality guidelines – global update 2005.
[4] Pabst E. (2020). Illegal air pollution in Texas: Air pollution from startups, shutdowns, malfunctions and maintenance at industrial facilities in Texas in 2018.
[5] Hall K. (2019, August 22). Austin traffic worsens, now ranking 14th most congested city in nation.
[6] Newberry B. (2020, February 1). Electric vehicles surge in Austin as more models expected to go on market.
[7] Watkins K. (2020, May 20). Texas’ air quality improved during the stay-at-home order. Here’s why it probably won’t last.
[8] Buchele M. (2020, April 20). Austin's air quality is getting worse, American Lung Association says.
[9] Price A. (2020, April 6). TCEQ loosens enforcement amid COVID-19.
[10] Ruiz M. (2020, June 26). Saharan dust still gives hazy conditions Sunday, but air quality in Austin has improved.

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