Air Quality Forecast Maps Now Available in Gaia GPS

Plan hikes and runs—and estimate just how good the views are going to be—with the new EPA Air Quality forecast maps in Gaia GPS. You can view current estimated levels of pollutants with the Air Quality (Current) overlay, or take a look at upcoming levels with the Air Quality (Tomorrow) overlay.

Updated daily with information from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Air Quality map overlays are available to users with a Premium Membership. You can find them in the Feature/Weather Overlays category of the map manager.

An ipad showing the air quality forecast map in Gaia GPS
A view of the Air Quality (Current) overlay on a fairly clear day on the west coast.

Why Air Quality Matters

Clean air is essential to human health. People with asthma, young children, older adults, and individuals with a history of heart or lung trouble are all at risk when air pollutant levels are moderate or slightly above moderate. If air gets much more polluted than that, even healthy adults could experience adverse symptoms, including trouble breathing or irritation of the eyes and nose. Prolonged exposure to pollution, especially ozone, or smog, can damage the insides of your lungs.

Air quality is especially important when you’re exercising outdoors, as exercise increases your respiration rate. More breaths per minute means more exposure to any pollutants.

Plus, one of the best parts of being outdoors is breathing in clean, clear air. You can also see more distant mountains and forests on clear days. So, it makes sense to pick your hiking days based on the air quality forecast the same as you would a precipitation forecast: The better the forecast, the more fun you’ll have.

a clear view of mountains with good air quality
Good air quality means clearer views.

About the Air Quality Index

The Air Quality Index (AQI), developed by the EPA, reports levels of some of the most common air pollutants: ozone (smog), particle pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. An AQI reading of 101 corresponds to a level that is above the national air quality standard. The higher the AQI rating, the greater the health impact.

The Air Quality map layer uses color coding to indicate AQI. Each category is identified by a simple descriptor that conveys how air quality within each category impacts public health. The table below defines the AQI categories you’ll see on the map. (On this map, uncolored areas indicate good air quality that poses no risk to human health.)

Map legend for the Air Quality Index.
The Air Quality Index, as defined by the EPA. This color coding system serves as the map legend for the Air Quality overlays in Gaia GPS.