For the second time this week, Canberrans have woken up to the world’s worst air quality for any major urban centre with readings reaching almost 15 times hazardous levels by 9:00 am this morning (Sunday, 5 January).
Air Quality Index (AQI) stations in Florey and Civic, which measure the level of pollutants in the air, had readings of 2847 and 2539 respectively, according to ACT Health data, which is well above the hazardous threshold of 200.
By midday, these levels increased to 3153 in Florey and 2843 in Civic.
According to Air Visual, Canberra’s air quality was almost two-and-a-half times worse than Delhi, India at 11:00 am this morning.
Residents are being urged to stay inside and avoid strenuous physical activity. Sport has been cancelled across the ACT while attractions like Questacon and the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) have closed their doors for safety reasons.
The NGA said that the decision was made to ensure the health and safety of people and paintings alike.
“Closing our doors allows us to mitigate any risk to the public, staff and works of art on display,” it said in a Facebook post.
Due to the heavy smoke in the Canberra region the National Gallery of Australia will be closed today. Closing our doors…
As bushfires continue to burn around the ACT, easterly to southeasterly winds have seen smoke blown inland from coastal fires, just days after Canberra recorded having the worst air quality in the world on 1 January.
And there does not seem to be any respite coming in the next few days.
The Emergency Services Agency (ESA) said that the smoke is expected to stay over the next few days, although Canberrans should not be worried about the orange skies in the morning, as it is caused by sunlight rather than fires, and will start to ease as the sun rises higher over the course of the day.
There are no current bushfires or grassfires in the ACT as of Sunday morning, the ESA said. A total fire ban is in place today for the ACT and NSW.
Smoke will be at its thickest in the morning and at night, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), with east to southeasterly winds dragging smoke from the coastal fires in towards the ACT.
These winds are set to continue for the next few days, with a light north westerly coming in briefly on Tuesday, however that will simply recirculate smoke already blown inland, and drag across any additional smoke from fires to the west of the ACT.
Smoke will be at its worst today, ease slightly tomorrow and again on Tuesday a BOM spokesperson told Region Media.
“The reason the smoke is so bad today is because of the low atmosphere, so the smoke hangs around more than it normally would,” the spokesperson said.
“It is like a campfire, if you put a box over the top, the smoke has less space to go. It is kind of like a lid.
“Tomorrow, the top of the lower atmosphere will be higher than it is today. So there will still be smoke, but not as much as today.”
At 10:30am there are 150 fires burning, 64 are uncontained. After a difficult day for firefighters yesterday, around 2,300 firefighters are active in the field today. Conditions have eased, however a statewide total fire ban remains in place. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/FUpI9vyTpG
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 4, 2020
ACT Emergency Services Commissioner Georgeina Whelan has declared a Total Fire Ban for the whole of the ACT for the duration of Sunday 5 January.
A State of Alert remains. The State of Alert is about preparedness. There are currently no grass or bushfires in the ACT. https://t.co/FcdLPdPRFA
— Andrew Barr MLA (@ABarrMLA) January 4, 2020
ACT Health says sensitive groups such as people over 65, children 14 years and younger, pregnant women and those with existing heart or lung conditions should stay with a friend or relative living outside the affected area.
If this is not possible, ACT Health says residents should remain indoors and keep activity levels as low as possible.
Anyone with a heart or lung condition should take their medication as prescribed by their doctor. People with asthma should follow their asthma action plan. Anyone with concerns about their health should seek medical advice from their doctor. Anyone experiencing wheezing, chest tightness or difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.