Expanding the Wildfire Smoke Sensor Network for New York State

Principal Investigator: Alistair Hayden

Public & Ecosystem Health
Sponsor: Cornell Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future
Title: Expanding the Wildfire Smoke Sensor Network for New York State
Project Amount: $10,000
Project Period: August 2023 to November 2023

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): 

For several days during the week of June 6, 2023, many cities in the Northeastern United States had the worst air quality in the world, due to wildfire smoke from fires in Canada. These determinations were made with sensitive air-quality monitors, installed to survey and protect human health. However, 29 of New York State’s (NYS) 62 counties--many of them rural counties in western, central, and northern NYS where measures of health and resilience are lowest-do not have any air-quality sensors, and were therefore unsure what the local air quality actually was. Public health workers reported using data from monitors several counties away, with unknown accuracy. This smoke-data gap is an issue for both research and public health prevention, mitigation, and response practices across NYS. Improved air-quality sensor density will enable better real-time tracking of smoke plumes, increasing the data available to public health professionals and the general public as they make health-related decisions.

We propose to purchase and install PurpleAir Flex air-quality sensors in the 29 New York State counties that lack an air-quality sensor, and link the sensors to the official Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Fire and Smoke Map so that real-time and historic data are permanently accessible for the public, researchers, and policymakers.