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Air Quality Data

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What can you do with air quality data once you have it? Whether you’ve collected the data yourself through community air monitoring or obtained it from an open database, there are many ways to communicate the data and make it meaningful.

On this wiki page, we’re collecting resources on understanding and communicating air quality data. Please add to these resources and help to improve the page by editing this wiki!

Visit the air-quality-data tag page to see the latest community posts about this topic on Public Lab, and receive updates by following:

Follow air quality data

Lead image: Infographic on air quality data by @renee. See full image below.

On this page:

Questions and activities about air quality data from the community

Understanding and preparing air quality data

Communicating with air quality data

Further reading and resources

Next step challenges

Questions about air quality data

Questions tagged with question:air-quality-data will appear here

Title Author Updated Likes Comments
What strategies have been implemented to use citizen science successfully in litigation? @julia_e_masters about 2 years ago 1
What is “data storytelling” and how can it be used for environmental data? @bhamster over 2 years ago 5
What are examples of "real-life", immersive experiences that help people understand pollution? @fongvania over 2 years ago 5
What are ways to alert residents to air quality concerns without using cell phones or wifi? @bhamster over 2 years ago 2
What are examples of air quality data visualizations that don’t require coding or computationally intensive computer graphics? @bhamster over 2 years ago 2
What are some of the first things you do with air quality monitoring data to better understand it? @bhamster over 2 years ago 7
How do you turn results about environmental pollution into personal actions that people can take? @bhamster almost 3 years ago 2
How do you make results from environmental monitoring personally meaningful to people? @bhamster almost 3 years ago 2
What are ways to make dense CSV data more readable? @warren over 4 years ago 7
What are best practices and tools to help clean up data sets? @stevie over 4 years ago 24

Activities about air quality data

Activity posts tagged with activity:air-quality-data will appear here

Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.

Understanding and preparing air quality data

Research notes tagged with getting-started-air-quality-data will appear here

Different kinds of air quality data

Becoming familiar with the kind of air quality data you have can help you on the way to figuring out what you eventually want to do with the data.

Illustration of people collecting various kinds of air quality data around a city, an industrial facility, and a recreational park

Image: A variety of different kinds and sources of air quality data, by @renee.

More about different kinds of environmental data (not specific to air quality data):

What other questions can help with understanding air quality data? Please edit this page to add more!

Units of measurement

Looking closely at units in data can help you understand the scale of your measurements and start thinking about how to communicate that scale so it’s meaningful to other people.

a cube representing the volume of carbon dioxide emitted from burning a gallon of gasoline appears next to the silhouette of an adult and child

Image: Illustrating the volume of carbon dioxide emitted from burning one gallon of gasoline. Carbon Visuals, CC BY

Resources on units of measurement:

Cleaning and organizing air quality data

Putting your air quality data into an organized table gets it ready for making charts, graphs, and other visualizations. Below are some resources on making tables of tidy data and on "cleaning data."

Stylized text providing an overview of Tidy Data. The top reads “Tidy data is a standard way of mapping the meaning of a dataset to its structure. - Hadley Wickham.” On the left reads “In tidy data: each variable forms a column; each observation forms a row; each cell is a single measurement.” There is an example table on the lower right with columns ‘id’, ‘name’ and ‘color’ with observations for different cats, illustrating tidy data structure.

Image: Illustrations from the Openscapes blog “Tidy Data for reproducibility, efficiency, and collaboration” by Julia Lowndes and Allison Horst, CC BY

Title Updated Version Views Likes
Cleaning and Organizing Environmental Data over 2 years ago by bhamster 4 201 0

Communicating with air quality data

Designing a data story

Research notes with the tag data-storytelling will appear here

More resources on deciding what data to share:

Graphs, maps, and more ways to present air quality data

Data visualizations like graphs, charts, and maps are a common way to bring numbers to life. And there are also other approaches! Art, zines, non-visual media, and other interactive media can also help you tell a story with your air quality data. We’re collecting resources and examples here of different ways to present air quality data.

Please edit this page to add more examples and improve this wiki!

Infographic on what visualizations to choose. Examples are comparing values over time with bar graphs, line graphs, or scatter plots; comparing composition with a dual-axis graph, stacked row graph, or line graph; showing a relationship with a bubble chart, scatter plot, or line graph; showing density or distribution in an area with a map.

Image: “Which visualizations should I use?” infographic by @renee.

  • See "Ways to present environmental data'' for more examples of ways to show environmental data, both visual and non-visual.
  • Data Viz Project: this resource isn’t specific to environmental data, but it’s a neat tool that enables you to choose a data visualization by function (e.g., trend over time, comparison) or raw data input type.

Tools for making visualizations and other media

Sharing and taking action with air quality data

  • Real-Time Online Charts and Maps: Great to visualize trends over time and compare air quality to other regions. This can also allow for more data aggregation and analysis.
  • Data Download: Publicly accessible data available in easy-to-use formats, either as a direct download or via a request form. This is particularly helpful in addition to web-based charts.
  • Notifications: Automated text, email, or phone call alerts when environmental conditions exceed a certain threshold. In locations with limited cell service or wifi, an Air Quality Flag program can be an option.
  • Partnerships: Work with local schools, existing government sites, news stations, and other media outlets to reach a broader audience and inform the public about air quality issues.

Wikis and research notes tagged with data-advocacy will appear here

Further reading and resources

More on data advocacy

More on data visualization tools and tutorials


Next step challenges

  • Document examples and stories of community scientists presenting air quality data and enacting change on a local issue
  • Test more data visualization tools and collaboratively grow the table comparing tools here. And possibly add another table with tools for other kinds of data communications (e.g., nonvisual, using physical media, other creative means!)
  • Create a choose-your-data-viz catalog, similar to the Data Viz Project, but open source and for environmental data