Most air pollution is measured at a city level, but air quality can change block by block, hour by hour and day to day. To better understand air quality on a more local level, Google began working with our partner Aclima — to map air pollution across California using Google Street View cars – equipped with air quality sensors.  Earlier this year, Google shared the the first results of this effort with pollution levels throughout the city of Oakland.
Google’s just beginning to understand what’s possible with this hyper-local information and today, they’re starting to share some of our findings for the three California regions they’ve mapped: the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and California’s Central Valley (the Street View cars drove 100,000 miles, over the course of 4,000 hours to collect this data!) Scientists and air quality specialists can use this information to assist local organizations, governments, and regulators in identifying opportunities to achieve greater air quality improvements and solutions.

Google has highlighted some of our findings for these regions with heat maps showing Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels across three regions. The NO2 scale in the videos indicate pollution levels.  Blue indicating  NO2 levels are low —  Yellow indicating NO2 levels are high.

Compared to Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, which they mapped over the past two years, is a higher density city. A large percentage of air pollution emissions comes from vehicles like cars, trucks, and construction equipment, and industrial sources like refineries and power plants added to the mix. The measurements here indicate street-level pollution patterns are affected by these local and distributed sources.

Air quality measurements in the San Francisco Bay Area region (TerraMetrics, Data CSUMB SFML, CA OPC, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Data LDEO-Columbia, NSF, Data MBARI, Landsat / Copernicus)

California’s Central Valley is rural with a lot of agriculture, it’s also home to cities, such as Fresno, Bakersfield, Stockton, and Modesto. Interstate 5 and Interstate 99 are two major traffic corridors that run through the region, connecting Northern and Southern California. Interstate and regional traffic, along with industry and agriculture, are sources of air pollution in the region. Weather conditions and topography can trap air pollution between the coast and the Sierra Nevada mountains resulting in a chronic ozone and particulate matter levels that exceed public health standards.

Air quality measurements in California’s Central Valley region (Landsat / Copernicus, Data MBARI, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Data LDEO-Columbia, NSF, Data CSUMB SFML, CA OPC, Data USGS)
So far, Goole has measured over one billion air quality data points for hyperlocal searching site, but this is just the beginning-and now air quality scientists can request access to the data. Google Earth Outreach Program Director, Karin Tucen-Bettman said that “the quality of the air affects our planet and our health, and we hope this information will help us build smart cities. More sustainable, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality to live healthier”.