NSW annual air quality statement 2023: key findings

National air quality standards were met at least 96% of the time in most regions.

Air quality overview

  • Air quality in New South Wales was generally good but marginally poorer compared to 2022, the state's best and most exceptional year for air quality.
  • In 2023, 4 regions (Central Coast, Lake Macquarie, Lower Hunter, and Southern Tablelands) met national air quality standards 100% of the time.
  • Air quality standards were met at least 96% of the time in all regions, except for Newcastle Local, which met the standard on 84% of the days in 2023.

Exceedance days

  • 47 days in 2023 had one or more criteria pollutants exceeding national standards, compared to 19 days in 2022.
  • 5 days in 2023 were classified as extremely poor during spring hazard reduction burns and a summer bushfire, in contrast to zero such days in 2022.
  • PM10 and PM2.5 were the pollutants most frequently exceeding national standards.

Particles pollution (PM10 and PM2.5)

  • Elevated particle levels were more frequent from September to December.
  • Common causes for particles exceeding national standards were dust, winter woodsmoke, hazard reduction burns, and bushfires.
  • Particulate matter concentrations were 30% higher in 2023 compared to 2022.

Gaseous pollutants

  • Carbon monoxide levels met the national standards all year.
  • One station (Bradfield Highway) exceeded the annual nitrogen dioxide standard.
  • Three days exceeded the national standard for ozone.
  • Sulphur dioxide levels exceeded national standards at Muswellbrook on 2 days.

Weather and climate influence

  • A warmer and drier 2023 following the end of 3 successive La Niña years. Rainfall was at least 15% below average for all seasons of the year.
  • Spring 2023 was the state's second warmest on record, with September being particularly dry.
  • High-impact rainfall events with widespread rain and thunderstorms in late November and December.
  • The NSW Combined Drought Indicator showed that 63% of the state was still in a drought category by the end of the year.

Dust in rural New South Wales

  • Rural air quality monitoring in 2023 recorded fewer dust hours than typical for a drought-affected year.
  • October saw a slight increase in dust due to strong winds and developing drought conditions.
  • Substantial and widespread rainfall in late November, coupled with low winds through the year, created favourable conditions limiting airborne dust.
  • For more information, refer to the Dust trends in rural New South Wales.