Air Quality Statement 2019 - focus areas

The 2019 Air Quality Statement has 4 focus areas – Hunter Valley, Stockton, bushfires and dust storms.

Energy, Environment and Science (EES) maintain 20 air quality monitoring stations in the Hunter Valley; 3 NSW Government-funded stations in the Lower Hunter, 3 industry-funded stations in the Port of Newcastle and 14 industry-funded stations in the Upper Hunter.

The industry-funded Upper Hunter and Newcastle Local air quality monitoring networks were established in 2011 and 2014, respectively, specifically to monitor local industrial and other pollution sources in the region. Due to the proximity of industrial sources, the national standards do not apply directly to the data collected at these monitoring stations. However, EES recognises that there is a desire within the community to know how air pollution levels at these stations compare against the standards. Therefore, EES uses national benchmarks (i.e. ambient air quality standards) in this section to evaluate air quality levels throughout the Hunter Valley.

More information on these networks can be found on the EES website, including seasonal newsletters published on a regular basis.

Large population centres

Gaseous pollutants

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide met the relevant hourly, daily and annual national standards in the Lower and Upper Hunter regions during 2019.

In the Lower Hunter, there were 5 days over the ozone national standards (5, 10, 19, 21 and 29 December). Beresfield recorded 4 days, Newcastle recorded 2 days and Wallsend recorded 4 days. In comparison, there was 1 day over the ozone standards at Beresfield in 2018.

Particles (PM10)

Within the Hunter Valley, PM10 levels are generally highest at Stockton in the Newcastle Port area, due to the influence of sea salt under onshore winds (Lower Hunter Particle Characterisation Study) (refer to the Stockton tab for more information). In the Upper Hunter region, PM10 levels are generally highest at sites closest to mining activity.

Annual averages

In 2019, annual average PM10 levels were above the benchmark at 8 of the 9 Hunter large population centre stations. PM10 annual average levels remained below the benchmark at Wallsend. Annual averages ranged from 22.9 µg/m3 at Wallsend to 43.6 µg/m3 at Stockton.

Daily averages

Daily average PM10 levels were above the benchmark on 71 days at one or more Hunter large population centres (excluding Stockton). These occurred on:

  • 2, 5, 16–17 and 26 January
  • 10–11, 13 and 19 February
  • 6 and 31 March
  • 2 May
  • 8–9, 19 and 23 August
  • 6 and 16 September
  • 7, 17 and 24–31 October
  • 1–3, 7–8, 11–12, 15–23 and 26–30 November
  • 1–12, 14–16, 19–22 and 29–31 December 2019.

At Stockton, the daily PM10 average was over the benchmark on 102 days, predominantly affected by sea salt under onshore air flows, bushfire smoke and long-range dust transport. Refer to the Stockton tab for more information.

The maximum daily PM10 averages recorded in the Hunter at large population centres occurred on 26 November 2019, due to a combination of bushfire smoke and widespread dust. The maximum PM10 levels in the Upper Hunter and Newcastle regions on this day respectively were 246.7 µg/m3 at Aberdeen and 169.5 µg/m3 at Stockton.

Fine particles (PM2.5)

Annual averages

Annual average PM2.5 levels were above the benchmark at all Hunter large population centres. Annual averages ranged from 10.4 µg/m3 at Wallsend to 13.0 µg/m3 at Stockton.

Daily averages

Daily average PM2.5 levels were above the benchmark on 45 days at one or more large population centres. These occurred on:

  • 1–2 and 8 June
  • 25–26 and 29–31 October
  • 1–3, 11–13, 15, 17–19, 21–23, 25–26 and 28–30 November
  • 2–12, 14–16, 19, 21, 28, 30–31 December.

During winter, the events occurred on:

  • 1 June at Stockton, potentially due to local industrial sources.
  • 2 June at Muswellbrook and 8 June at Muswellbrook and Singleton, most likely due to wood smoke.

From the end of October, the region was affected by smoke from extensive bushfires during the bushfire emergency period and dust storms.

The maximum daily PM2.5 average occurred on 5 December 2019 at Wallsend, in the Lower Hunter, due to bushfire smoke. On this day, PM2.5 levels in the Lower Hunter ranged from 92.1 to 108.3 µg/m3.

In the Upper Hunter, the maximum daily PM2.5 average of 80.0 µg/m3 occurred at Camberwell small community station on 21 November, due to bushfire smoke. On this day Muswellbrook and Singleton recorded PM2.5 daily averages of 77.4 and 69.3 µg/m3, respectively.

Upper Hunter air quality monitoring network

The Upper Hunter air quality monitoring network comprises 3 stations in larger population centres, 6 stations in smaller communities, 3 diagnostic stations close to mining operations and 2 background stations at the north-west and south-east extents of the region.

Annual averages

All monitoring stations in the Upper Hunter, including the Merriwa and Singleton South background stations, recorded annual average PM10 levels over the benchmark. PM10 annual averages in the Upper Hunter ranged from 27.9 µg/m3 at Merriwa to 39.9 µg/m3 at Camberwell. 

The highest annual averages occurred at sites closer to mines, Camberwell (39.9 µg/m3), Maison Dieu (38.0 µg/m3) and Mount Thorley (36.4 µg/m3). This was followed by the Singleton North-west diagnostic site (34.6 µg/m3) and the Muswellbrook population centre (34.4 µg/m3).

The PM2.5 annual average at Camberwell was 10.5 µg/m3.

Daily averages

The Upper Hunter recorded 120 days when the daily PM10 levels were over the benchmark at one or more sites. Camberwell recorded the highest number of days over the PM10 daily benchmark in the region, with a total of 87 days.

Overall, there was a 64% increase in the number of days over the benchmark in 2019, compared with 2018 (73 days). The increase was due to the prolonged and consistent drought conditions experienced throughout New South Wales in 2019, along with smoke impacts from the extensive bushfires burning from late spring. This resulted in an increase in both particles transported into the region and particles from local industrial dust sources.

All sites in the Upper Hunter, except Bulga, recorded their highest daily PM10 average on 26 November. On this day, the region was affected by an extensive dust storm, bushfire smoke and local industrial dust sources under strong winds. The highest PM10 daily average on this day was 446.1 µg/m3, at Maison Dieu, with the highest hourly peaks occurring under strong north-northwest winds.

Camberwell recorded a maximum daily PM2.5 average of 80.0 µg/m3 on 21 November, due to bushfire smoke.

Summary of PM10 levels in the Upper Hunter 2019

Note: # Days above the benchmark have not been divided into exceptional and non-exceptional events, as the NEPM goals do not apply to these sites.

The Stockton air quality monitoring station is part of the industry-funded Newcastle Local Air Quality Monitoring Network, focused around the Port of Newcastle. The station is approximately 300 metres from the ocean and 20 metres from Hunter River. Due to its proximity to the coast, high PM10 particle levels recorded at Stockton most often occur under onshore north-easterly winds. The Lower Hunter Particle Characterisation Study found that the largest contribution to PM10 at Stockton was sea salt.

For PM10, in 2019:

  • The daily PM10 particle levels at Stockton were over the standard of 50 µg/m3 on 102 days (compared with 64 days in 2018).
  • The PM10 annual average was above the standard of 25 µg/m3, reaching 43.6 µg/m3 (compared to 38.7 µg/m3 in 2018).
  • Stockton recorded the most days over the standard and the highest annual average in New South Wales.
  • Most of the PM10 events at Stockton (83 days, 81.4%) occurred in the warmer months January to March and October to December, when onshore winds predominate. The October to December months were also greatly affected by extensive bushfire smoke during the bushfire emergency period.
  • Elevated hourly PM10 levels (>75 µg/m3, an indicative level as there are no standards for hourly PM10) occurred 11.5% of the time over the year, as shown in the PM10 pollution rose below. These elevated hourly PM10 levels occurred under:
    • onshore easterly winds 59% of the time (6.8% total time for the year), indicating the potential contribution of sea salt
    • north-west winds 18% of the time (2.1% total time for the year).

For PM2.5 in 2019:

  • The daily PM2.5 particle levels at Stockton were over the standard of 25 µg/m3 on 27 days (compared with 1 day in 2018).
  • The PM2.5 annual average was above the standard of 8 µg/m3, reaching 13.0 µg/m3 (compared to 10.0 µg/m3 in 2018).
  • Most of the PM2.5 events at Stockton (26 days, 96.3%) occurred from October to December, during the bushfire emergency period.
  • Elevated hourly PM2.5 levels (>40 µg/m3, an indicative level as there are no standards for hourly PM2.5) occurred 3.3% of the time over the year, as shown in the PM2.5 pollution rose below. These occurred under north-west winds 28% of the time (0.9% of time for the year).

Stockton particle levels were greatly affected by extensive bushfire smoke from late spring during the bushfire emergency period, in common with particle levels at other stations in Newcastle and the Local Hunter. There were 35 days over the daily PM10 standard at Stockton that were affected by bushfire smoke in 2019, with most of these (31 days) from 29 October to 31 December.

In addition, elevated particle levels in the region were affected by the long-range transport of dust from drought-affected regions in the west and north-west of the State. There were 13 days over the daily PM10 standard at Stockton that were affected by dust.

Local industrial sources also contribute to particle levels at Stockton, under north-west winds. The Lower Hunter Particle Characterisation Study found that Stockton PM2.5 levels in winter, under north-west winds, were influenced mainly by direct emissions of ammonium nitrate particles from industry, located approximately 1 kilometre to the north-west, on Kooragang Island.

Hourly ammonia (NH3) levels were below the assessment goal of 46 pphm at Stockton throughout 2019. The maximum hourly NH3 level was 20.3 pphm, recorded on 29 August 2019. The annual average ammonia was 1.2 pphm.

For more information on seasonal air quality at Stockton, refer to the Newcastle seasonal newsletters.

Bushfires in NSW in 2019


  • In 2019, record high temperatures, severe multi-year rainfall deficiencies, very low humidity, and strong and gusty winds led to dangerous fire weather conditions throughout New South Wales (NSW) from July to December. These conditions combined with very high dryness in fuel loads to increase bushfire risk.
  • NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) records showed that the total area burned from September to December 2019 was around 4 million hectares, with lives lost and hundreds of homes destroyed. The extent of fires was unprecedented in NSW Government’s records.
  • Multiple large and dangerous bushfires across eastern NSW from September to December brought thick smoke, blanketing populated areas from the NSW Northern Tablelands to the Far South Coast regions. This resulted in reduced visibility and poor to hazardous air quality.
  • The geographic extent, duration and levels of PM2.5 particles (particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter) observed simultaneously across multiple regions, resulted in the longest severe air pollution event for northern, central and coastal areas of NSW since 1998.
  • The NSW Government started bushfire related air quality monitoring in late July, when smoke from a major fire affected local communities near Port Macquarie (Mid-north Coast). During the bushfire emergency period (October to December), monitoring was extended to Lismore and Coffs Harbour (NSW Northern Rivers/Mid-north Coast regions) in November. Additional indicative monitoring of hourly particle levels started in Grafton (Northern Rivers), Coffs Harbour and Taree (Mid-north Coast) in November and in Batemans Bay and Ulladulla (South Coast) in December.
  • Port Macquarie reported the highest PM2.5 daily average on record in NSW to the end of 2019 on 15 November 2019, with a daily average of 443 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3). On this day, Port Macquarie also recorded the highest carbon monoxide levels on record at a non-roadside site in NSW in the last 25 years.
  • The new Goulburn monitoring station recorded hourly nitrogen dioxide levels over the national standard, reaching 16.1 pphm, the highest recorded value since 1994. This event was due to bushfire smoke.
  • Indicative monitoring recorded very high hourly PM2.5 readings due to their closeness to bushfires. For example, the highest hourly PM2.5 levels, recorded by an indicative monitor, were 1,675 µg/m3 at Ulladulla on 23 December and 2,500 µg/m3 at Batemans Bay on 31 December [note: these readings are not directly comparable to any particle related standards].

Smoke plumes extending eastwards from fires burning in eastern Australia and a large area of smoke over the Tasman Sea. Some of these fires had been burning for several months after starting on days of elevated fire weather conditions in early September

Extreme bushfire weather

The dangerous fire weather conditions of the first half of the 2019-2020 bushfire season were preceded by prolonged and intensifying drought across NSW from 2017 to 2019. The bushfire risk was exacerbated by warmer than average temperatures, severe rainfall deficiencies, very low humidity and gusty winds, combined with very high dryness in fuel loads (refer to Climate section; Bureau of Meteorology Special Climate Statement 71).

Locations in the north-east recorded Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI) values in the catastrophic category on 6 September, which marked the onset of numerous large bushfires. This was the highest FFDI for the north-east since records began in 1950. The FFDI was in the very high category for 21 days during spring 2019. The previous highest count was 11 such days in spring 2002 and an average count of 2 days (Bureau of Meteorology Special Climate Statement 72). Catastrophic fire weather led the NSW Government to declare a 7-day “State of Emergency” on 11 November and 19 December 2019.


The NSW Government records showed that around 4 million hectares were burnt in late 2019, and the extent of the bushfires was unprecedented in the NSW Government’s historical records.

Number of hectares burnt during September to December 2019, compared to those in major NSW bushfire seasons from 1926


NSW Parliamentary Research Briefing No.05/2002 for 1926 to 2002.

Year Book Australia, 2004, Australian Bureau of Statistics, for 1 July 2002 to 28 February 2003, accessed 8 January 2020

NSW Rural Fire Service ICON database for 2013 to 2019, accessed 7 January 2020.

Summary of major fires in New South Wales, 1 September to 31 December 2019
Region Major fires >100,000 ha


(Northern Rivers, North Coast, Northern Tablelands, Northern Slopes and Plains)

Carrai Creek (238, 602 ha)

Liberation Trail (183,653 ha)

Carrai East (149,534 ha)

Washpool State Forest (133,318 ha)

Myall Creek Road (121,324 ha)

Kaloe Mountain (120,866 ha)

Bees Nest (113,706 ha)


(Metropolitan, Blue Mountains, Lower North Coast, Hunter, Central Coast, South Coast)

Gospers Mountain (Wollemi National Park, 511,661 ha)

Kerry Ridge (Wollemi National Park, 323,901 ha)

Green Wattle Creek (south-west of Warragamba Dam, 274,068 ha)

Little L Complex (Yengo National Park, 166,590 ha)

Rumba Complex (Manning-Hastings, 151,654 ha)

South and West

(ACT, Southern Ranges, Western Rivers, Far West)

No fires greater than 100,000 ha to end of 2019

Source: Rural Fire Service, ICON database, accessed 7 January 2020

Bushfire emergency and air quality monitoring

The NSW air quality monitoring network

Note regarding availability of data

Data availability in December was reduced at NSW air quality monitoring stations near bushfire grounds. The duration, extent and magnitude of the fires and smoke affected power supplies, filter loads on monitoring instruments and site access, disrupting automated data collection. Insufficient PM2.5 hourly data were available to calculate the daily averages between 1 and 4 days at Oakdale, Randwick, Bringelly and Bargo in Sydney, Orange and Bathurst in the Central Tablelands, Narrabri in the North-west Slopes and Armidale in the Northern Tablelands.

The NSW air quality monitoring network recorded more days above the PM2.5 national standard and with higher maximum levels from October to December 2019, than in any previous bushfire season (October to March) since 1998.

Between 20 October to 31 December 2019, there were 66 of 73 days where bushfire smoke contributed to daily PM2.5 levels above the standard, at 1 or more stations in the network. The daily PM2.5 standard was exceeded for 51 consecutive days between 11 November and 31 December.

Oakdale (in Sydney South-west) and Goulburn (in the Southern Tablelands; commissioned on 6 November 2019) recorded 11 days with daily PM2.5 levels above 100 µg/m3, 4 times the national standard of 25 µg/m3. Oakdale did not record data during 6 to 9 December, due to a planned power outage as the Green Wattle Creek bushfire burned through the suburb of Oakdale. Goulburn recorded daily PM2.5 levels over the standard on 24 consecutive days during 8 to 31 December. Goulburn recorded an hourly NO2 level of 16.1 pphm on 31 December due to bushfire smoke, which exceeds the hourly standard of 12 pphm and is highest on record since 1994 for the NSW monitoring network.

Widespread dust storms also contributed to high PM2.5 levels during the bushfire emergency period from October to December, particularly at regional centre stations west of the Great Dividing Range. One of the most significant particle pollution events of the year occurred on 21-22 November 2019, due to extensive bushfire smoke combined with a widespread dust storm passing across the State. On 21 November, every available monitoring station in the network recorded PM2.5 and PM10 levels above the national standards, except for Bathurst in the Central Tablelands (daily PM10 levels at Bathurst on 21 November reached 47.4 µg/m3, approaching the benchmark of 50 µg/m3). During 21-22 November, Armidale recorded the highest PM2.5 daily level of 188.1 µg/m3 on 21 November, 7 times the national standard of 25 µg/m3. Bathurst recorded the highest PM10 daily level of 200 µg/m3 on 22 November, 4 times the national standard of 50 µg/m3.

Bushfire smoke effects on air quality monitored by the Blue Mountains and Lithgow Air Watch Project

Bushfire smoke from late November and through December affected air quality at the Katoomba air quality monitoring station, which operates as part of the Blue Mountains and Lithgow Air Watch Project.

PM2.5 particle monitoring results showed:

  • Between 30 October and 31 December, Katoomba recorded 29 days over the PM2.5 benchmark, with the highest daily average of 436 µg/m3 on 26 December being the second highest daily reading in the year.
  • However, monitoring data were not available for 27 to 30 December, due to high levels of particles overloading the instruments. The daily average on the 27 December of the nephelometer visibility measurements, was 33% higher than 26 December. As there is a high correlation between visibility and PM2.5 measurements when the particle source is mostly comprised of smoke, it could be expected that this day might have recorded a PM2.5 daily average above 436 µg/m3.

PM10 particle monitoring has shown:

  • Between 30 October and 31 December, Katoomba recorded 23 days over the PM10 benchmark, with 22 of these days also recording PM2.5 exceedances due to bushfire smoke and an additional 1 day related to a dust storm on 26 October.

Ozone monitoring has shown:

  • National ozone standards were exceeded on 10 days in Katoomba between 21 November and 31 December.
  • On 4 of these days there were no ozone exceedances observed in Sydney. These days were typical of prevailing winds directing smoke from the Blue Mountains fires towards western Blue Mountains and inland areas in the Central Tablelands and Central-west regions of NSW.

Bushfire emergency air quality monitoring

Port Macquarie

An extensive bushfire near Port Macquarie spread from a peat fire in a dry wetland, following a lightning strike in June 2019. In late July, an air quality monitoring station was established, monitoring PM10 and PM2.5 particles, visibility, and the gases ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide. Monitoring results are summarised below.

PM2.5 particle monitoring:

  • From 29 July to 31 December, the 25 µg/m3 benchmark was exceeded on 56 days (41%) of 136 days where daily PM2.5 averages were available,
    • Between 29 July and 16 September, the PM2.5 daily average was greater than the 25 µg/m3 benchmark on 23 days out of 43 days with data available, due to combination of peat fire, local bushfires and smoke transport from northern NSW fires in September.
    • Between 7 November and 12 December, the daily PM2.5 levels were above the benchmark on 26 out of 34 days with data available (high particle loads impacted the instrument, reducing data availability on 2 additional days).
    • The highest PM2.5 daily average of 443 µg/m3 was recorded on 15 November, setting the highest on record in NSW since 1994 for the PM2.5 daily average at any monitoring station to the end of 2019.

PM10 particle monitoring:

  • From 29 July to 31 December, PM10 daily averages were above the benchmark on 45 days (33% of the time), with 41 of these days coinciding with PM2.5 exceedance days due to bushfire smoke.
  • 4 days with PM10 averages above the benchmark were due to dust storms affecting northern NSW on 22 August, 27-28 November and 2 December.

Gaseous air pollutant monitoring:

  • Carbon monoxide levels were above the 8-hour average benchmark of 9 ppm on 11 November (9.3 ppm) and 15 November (9.6 ppm). Only 1 other CO exceedance has been observed at the non-roadside monitoring stations in NSW since 1994, which was at Campbelltown West during the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires.
  • Ozone levels were also recorded above the 4-hour benchmark of 8 parts per hundred million (pphm) on 19 November (8.2 pphm) and 5 December (9.0 pphm).

Coffs Harbour and Lismore

In mid-November, due to the poor air quality observed in Port Macquarie and the extent of the northern NSW fires, emergency air quality monitoring stations were established at Coffs Harbour and Lismore. Monitoring results are summarised below.

PM2.5 particle monitoring:

  • PM2.5 monitoring began at Coffs Harbour on 22 November, with 14 days recorded over the benchmark by 31 December. Between 23 November and 11 December, 12 of the 19 days were over the benchmark. The highest daily PM2.5 level recorded was 114 µg/m3 on 23 November.
  • PM2.5 monitoring began at Lismore on 24 November, with 9 days recorded over the benchmark by 31 December, occurring during a 10-day period from 3 to 12 December. The highest daily PM2.5 level recorded was 43.7 µg/m3 on 9 December.

Ozone monitoring:

  • Ozone levels were above the national benchmarks at Coffs Harbour on 5 December, recording a 1-hour ozone level of 10.2 pphm and 4-hour ozone level of 9.8 pphm. This event coincided with one of the ozone events at Port Macquarie.

Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Taree, Ulladulla and Batemans Bay

Additional indicative monitoring was established on the NSW north coast at Grafton, Coffs Harbour and Taree in November and on the south coast at Ulladulla and Batemans Bay in December. Indicative monitors were installed to measure only hourly particle pollution levels. Data from these monitors have a lower level of accuracy compared to certified instrumentation. The hourly levels recorded by indicative monitors are not intended to be compared with the daily PM2.5 or PM10 benchmarks. Monitoring results are summarised below.

  • NSW north coast:
    • From 21 November to 31 December, indicative monitors recorded their maximum hourly PM2.5 levels on 23 November 2019, with 689 µg/m3 at Grafton, 610 µg/m3 at Taree, and 461 µg/m3 at Coffs Harbour.
  • NSW south coast:
    • From 7 to 31 December (25 days), indicative monitors recorded maximum hourly PM2.5 levels of 2500 µg/m3 at Batemans Bay (31 December) and 1675 µg/m3 at Ulladulla (23 December 2019).
Maximum hourly PM2.5 concentrations at indicative monitoring stations, showing the effects of bushfire smoke, in north-eastern and south-eastern parts of NSW in November and December

Dust storms in 2019

  • 2019 was by far the dustiest year since rural records began in July 2005. Several records were broken across the New South Wales rural air quality monitoring network (formerly DustWatch) in 2019. Many sites exceeded 200 hours of dust for the year, with several exceeding this in November 2019 alone. Sites in the western and north-eastern parts of the State came close to 1,000 hours of dust activity for the year (as shown in the map below). For more detailed month by month information refer to the 2019 DustWatch reports.
  • A significant and rapid loss of groundcover since 2017 was a consequence of the prolonged and intense drought across NSW (as shown in the graph below). This contributed to the increased frequency, intensity and extent of dust storms in 2019, especially from September to November. Groundcover in December 2019 was the lowest across the State since satellite measurements began in 2001 (for more information refer to the DustWatch reports since January 2017).
  • The widespread dust storms in 2019 were in part associated with the passage of cold fronts and low-pressure troughs travelling across NSW. These weather systems brought strong and turbulent winds that raised loose soil particles across parts of South Australia, western Victoria and western NSW. Westerly to south-westerly winds transported suspended dust particles over long distances to eastern parts of NSW. Across the rural network stations, there was an average of 69 hours of strong winds above 40 kilometres per hour recorded in November, resulting in a peak monthly average of 94 hours of dust activity (see graph below).
  • Dust storms had a major impact on air quality throughout 2019, both in inland NSW and across the populated coastal areas. Historically, widespread dust storms were more frequent in late winter to spring. However, 2019 also saw large dust storms in summer months and early autumn.

NSW air quality monitoring network

The NSW air quality monitoring network data provide the following highlights:

  • At NSW regional centres, dust storms contributed to significantly elevated daily PM10 levels, with the following days exceeding the national standard:
    • Wagga Wagga North in the South-west Slopes was the most affected regional station in the network. The station recorded more than 40 days over the PM10 standard due to dust activity (with another 10 days impacted by dust storms along with smoke from bushfires).
    • 11 days at Albury in the South-west Slopes
    • 27 days at Tamworth, 22 days at Narrabri and 19 days at Gunnedah in the North-west Slopes
    • 18 days at Bathurst and 13 days at Orange in the Central Tablelands
    • 15 days at Armidale in the Northern Tablelands
    • 3 days at the new Goulburn monitoring station in the Southern Tablelands (established in November 2019).
  • In the Greater Metropolitan Region (GMR), dust storms contributed to daily PM10 levels above the standard on at least:
    • 8 days at one or more stations in the Sydney region
    • 4 days at one or more sites in the Illawarra
    • 4 days in the Central Coast
    • 12 days at one or more sites in the Lower Hunter.
  • Dust activities contributed to PM10 daily levels above the national standard during the bushfire emergency period (October – December) on 3 days, 27-28 November and 2 December 2019.

NSW rural air quality monitoring network

The NSW rural air quality monitoring network incorporates over 35 stations in rural NSW and across the border into South Australia and Victoria. These stations provide indicative monitoring of airborne particulate matters, as PM10 and PM2.5 (particles less than 10 and 2.5 micrometres in diameter, respectively) and total suspended particles (TSP). The indicative monitoring does not comply with any Australian Standards and PM10 and PM2.5 data recorded are not intended for comparison with national air quality standards for PM2.5 or PM10.

The NSW rural air quality monitoring network recorded elevated particle levels due to dust activities. For example, during the 2 largest dust storms in south-western NSW in 2019, the following occurred on 7 May and 21 November, respectively:

  • a maximum hourly PM2.5 level of 2500 µg/m3 was recorded at Buronga on 7 May at 6pm
  • a maximum hourly PM10 level of 11,800 µg/m3 was recorded at Buronga on 21 November at 12pm
  • a maximum hourly TSP level of 13,500 µg/m3 was recorded at Buronga on 21 November at 12pm.

During the same event in November, high maximum particle levels were also observed in other western NSW stations such as Ivanhoe, Broken Hill and Lake Victoria.