Fort Air Partnership has released its air quality results from 2021.

The partnership has permanent monitoring stations in Bruderheim, Elk Island National Park, Fort Saskatchewan, Gibbons, Lamont County, Redwater and two temporary stations for parts of the year in Sturgeon County and the town of Lamont. These stations continuously collect data to calculate and forecast the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) in and around Alberta's Industrial Heartland. 
 
Air quality in the area was rated low risk about 95 per cent of the time on average in 2021. Elk Island National Park had a low rating the most, 96.3 per cent of the time, while Fort Saskatchewan had the least low rating at 92.9 per cent of the time.

The number of high-risk and very high-risk AQHI ratings in 2021 increased significantly compared to 2020.

"This is because we had two significant wildfire events in 2021 that drove those AQHI ratings into the high and very high-risk levels. Those occurred both in July and in October, and those events were both related to smoke from wildfires burning in BC at the time," explained Nadine Blaney,  

In 2021, there were 297 hours of air quality being high risk and 84 hours of very high risk. These hours were spread relatively evenly across the monitoring stations, illustrating the regional effect of wildfire smoke in July and October.

By comparison, there were only 16 hours of high risk and no hours of very high-risk AQHI ratings in 2020. Most of the time, the air quality was less than ideal was due to winter inversion, when warm air traps cold air beneath it at ground level, and pollutants aren't able to disperse as easily. 

The AQHI results for the region in 2021.The AQHI results for the region in 2021.