Sacramento Air Quality Index (AQI) and California Air Pollution | IQAir (2023)

What is the air quality in Sacramento?

Air quality in Sacramento generally averages a US AQI rating of less than 50, or “good.” The “good” air quality distinction describes air that is satisfactory and poses little to no risk to health.

PM2.5 is one of six criteria pollutants measured by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine an air quality rating. Due to the pollutant’s prevalence and relatively high health risk, it is often responsible for determining the overall air quality index (AQI). In 2019, Sacramento averaged a PM2.5 level of 8.7 ug/m3, thereby meeting the World Health Organization (WHO) target for annual exposure (< 10 μg/m3). November, December, and January experienced average ratings of “moderate” that failed to meet US EPA standards. November was the most polluted month of 2019, with a monthly PM2.5 average of 21.9 μg/m3, or AQI 72, followed by December (15.9 μg/m3) and January (13.6 μg/m3).

Elevated pollution levels in the winter are common around the world. This is typically because of increased wood burning and heating as well as temperature inversions that prevent polluted air from dispersing. In 2019, particularly during November, elevated air pollution levels in Sacramento were largely attributable to wildfires, such as the Ranch fire in Tehama County that burned more than 2,500 acres, and the Kincade fire in Sonoma County that burned 77,758 acres.1,2 Winter months in Sacramento also experience strong cool air inversions as a result of the city’s high-pressure system, which can contribute to sustained high air pollution levels.

Ozone is another pollutant of concern in Sacramento. Nationally, Sacramento is the fifth most ozone-polluted city according to the 2019 State of the Air report released by the American Lung Association, comparing 228 metropolitan areas.3 Although the city’s ranking has remained relatively consistent for the last several years, true ozone levels have actually gone down by 40% in the last 20 years.4 Still, Sacramento experiences an average of 25 high-ozone days annually, far above the recommended target of 3 days or less.3

Air pollution data varies hourly and daily. In order to properly protect oneself from the health effects of air pollution, refer to the top of this page for Sacramento’s forecast air quality data and real-time air quality data.

(Video) How to Find The Best Air Quality Index (AQI) on the Web

Has air quality improved in Sacramento?

Since the establishment of the Clean Air Act and more recent legislation including the 1990 amendments, air quality has drastically improved across the state of California.4 In 2007, regulations on wood burning contributed to a 41% decrease in PM2.5 levels over 4 years. But since 2011, Sacramento’s progress has not been a straight line. Sporadic and unpredictable wildfires greatly influence yearly averages, making air pollution levels more difficult to control.

Year-over-year data, for example, shows that Sacramento’s air quality rose 27.8% from 2017 to 2018, then fell 40.8% from 2018 to 2019. These fluctuations reflect an unusually severe wildfire season in 2018. This wavering record for PM2.5 levels, however, has resulted in no clear improvement trend since 2011.

While particle air pollution and overall AQI in Sacramento has remained relatively stable in recent years, actual city-wide emissions of particulate matter and ozone precursor pollutants have steadily decreased due to implementation of local, state, and federal emission control programs.

Ozone is usually formed in the atmosphere from volatile organic compounds (VOC) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) reacting to ultraviolet radiation. Emissions for both precursor pollutants have fallen steadily in recent years despite gains in population, vehicles, and economic development. The largest reduction in this segment is attributable to gas-powered vehicles. From 2000 to 2015, effective regulations on vehicles have resulted in a 66% reduction of VOCs and a 62% reduction for nitrogen oxides.4

The most recent legislation governing Sacramento air pollution was established in 2017 by Governor Jerry Brown under Assembly Bill (AB) 617. The bill seeks to protect communities disproportionately impacted by air pollution through a five-pronged approach: increased community-level air monitoring, emission reduction plans, review and retrofitting of industrial facilities, more comprehensive emission reporting requirements, and greater penalties for polluters.5 While such continued efforts are critically important to further reducing pollution levels in the area, the true effect of this legislation on air quality levels is yet to be seen.

(Video) Air Quality Ranges From Unhealthy To Very Unhealthy In Sacramento Region

Why does Sacramento have unhealthy air quality?

Sacramento’s unhealthy air quality is largely the result of transportation exhaust, which serves as the most significant single source of air pollution in the area.6 Daily emissions are often exacerbated by environmental factors of the Sacramento valley, which can lead to an accumulation of polluted air. These factors include temperature inversions, high heat, abundant sunshine, surrounding mountains, and relatively stagnant air.

Temperature inversions are a weather phenomenon in which warmer air is layered on top of cooler ground-level air, preventing the cooler air from dispersing. In Sacramento, temperature inversions occurring in the summer, fall, and winter differ by origin, but are similar in effect. Summertime temperature inversions, also called marine inversions, are the result of cooler marine air trapped under hot summer air flowing in. These inversions tend to be less severe in their impact on air quality than the cool air inversions of the fall and winter, which result from a high pressure cell. Inversions during fall and winter, brought on by pressure systems, are not easily affected by wind and, as a result, tend to have a more significant impact on air quality. In 2019, the most polluted months in Sacramento were November, December, January, and October (in that order).

Wildfires have also recently contributed to short-lived pollution spikes. Air pollution resulting from the 2018 Camp Fire, for example, caused the Sacramento air quality index to reach “hazardous” levels, topping the Major City Ranking for worst air pollution globally for several hours.7 As global warming contributes to increasingly hotter and drier climates, the frequency and severity of wildfires is expected to increase.

The live Sacramento air quality map is useful in determining the origin of polluted air and discovering factors that determine real-time readings. Such analysis, for example, can indicate whether pollution is blown in from wildfire smoke or elevated due to summertime marine inversions.

Where is air quality worse, San Francisco or Sacramento?

Sacramento air quality consistently fares worse than San Francisco air quality for measures of short-term ozone, short-term PM2.5, and annual PM2.5.

(Video) Sacramento Air Quality

Short-term ozone pollution is evaluated as a number of days per year that exceed 24-hour guidelines. The US EPA recommends a yearly allowance of no more than 3.2 unhealthy days per year. In the 2016 to 2018 monitoring period, Sacramento averaged 25 unhealthy ozone days per year, while San Francisco averaged zero unhealthy ozone days per year.

The US EPA sets the same standard for short-term PM2.5, requiring that the number of unhealthy PM2.5 days per year not exceed 3.2. In the 2016 to 2018 monitoring period, Sacramento averaged 11.3 unhealthy PM2.5 days per year while San Francisco averaged slightly less at 9.2 unhealthy PM2.5 days per year.

Annual PM2.5 concentrations are typically evaluated in terms of the US EPA standard (less than 12 μg/m3) or the WHO standard (less than 10 μg/m3). Over the last three years, Sacramento consistently experienced higher annual PM2.5 averages than San Francisco:

2017 2018 2019
Sacramento 11.5 μg/m3 14.7 μg/m3 8.7 μg/m3
San Francisco 10 μg/m3 12.6 μg/m3 7.1 μg/m3

Sacramento also tends to fare worse for air quality than other Bay Area cities, reporting a higher annual AQI (36) than Oakland (AQI 29), Santa Rosa (AQI 28), San Jose (AQI 27), and Walnut Creek (AQI 27).

When is the smoke going to clear in Sacramento?

Wildfires can burn for days and weeks at a time. Environmental scientists have found that recent years have been increasingly prone to long-burning and severe wildfires, a trend attributed to human-caused climate change. Likewise, Sacramento air quality has been trending toward more unhealthy pollution days per year, as a result.

(Video) How wildfires impact air pollution and air quality

Even during prolonged periods of sustained nearby wildfire emissions, measured air quality in Sacramento may vary drastically day-to-day, hour-to-hour. Weather is a key indicator. Wind, precipitation, and temperature conditions all play significant roles in determining Sacramento’s current air quality. Wind and rain can help disperse and tamp down pollution, while a lack thereof can cause emissions to accumulate. High-pressure cells and thermal inversions can also be indicative, determining whether emissions disperse naturally or become “trapped.”

IQAir forecast air quality data for Sacramento uses machine learning to analyze millions of data points, such as air quality and weather measurements, in order to predict when smoke in Sacramento will clear. While wildfires are difficult to predict, as an ever-changing emission source, forecast air quality data can be a useful tool for planning ahead to reduce one’s pollution exposure.

+ Article Resources

[1] Cal-Fire - Ranch Fire. (2020).
[2] Cal-Fire - Kincade Fire. (2020).
[3] State of the Air – 2020. (2020).
[4] Air quality trends. (2020).
[5] Community air protection. (2020).
[6] Lorenzen A. (1974). Climate of the Sacramento Valley air basin. California Air Resources Board: Division of Technical Services.
[7] Masters J. (2018, November 16). Smoke from Camp Fire making Sacramento the most polluted city on Earth.

(Video) How bad air quality impacts health: Doctor explains


Why is Sacramento polluted? ›

In Sacramento County, the majority of air pollution during the summer comes from mobile sources, which are the cars, trucks, buses, agriculture, and construction equipment that are used every day. In the winter, the majority of air pollution comes from wood burning in residential fireplaces and wood stoves.

What's the air quality like in Sacramento right now? ›

El Dorado4346

What city in California has the cleanest air? ›

Only one California city ranked among the list of top 25 cities with the least amount of particle pollution: Salinas in Monterey County. The ten U.S. cities with the cleanest air, free of particle pollution are: Urban Honolulu, Hawaii. Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, Hawaii.

What is a good air pollution score? ›

"Good" AQI is 0 - 50. Air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk. "Moderate" AQI is 51 - 100. Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people.

Does Sacramento have bad air quality? ›

According to the 155-page air quality report, the area ranked No. 7 out “25 Cites Most Polluted by Daily Particulate Matter.” The 11 other state cities ranked include: Fresno, No.

Is the Sacramento River safe? ›

Water quality in the Sacramento and Feather Rivers has been identified by the State of California as impaired by copper, mercury, toxicity and more than 15 pesticides including diazinon chlorpyrifos and lindane.

Is the air dry in Sacramento? ›

Sacramento, CA can suffer from dry conditions in summer and winter. Dry air creates its own set of problems. One of them is that it adds an unpleasant edge to cooler weather.

What is air quality in Roseville California? ›

What is the current air quality in Roseville?
Air pollution levelAir quality indexMain pollutant
Good21 US AQIPM2.5
30 Sept 2022

What is the air quality in south Sacramento? ›

46 AQI. The air quality is generally acceptable for most individuals.

What part of California is most polluted? ›

1CaliforniaSan Bernardino
3CaliforniaLos Angeles
23 more rows
14 Apr 2022

What part of California has the worst air quality? ›

The San Joaquin Valley of California has poor air quality and high rates of asthma.

What US city has the dirtiest air? ›

Most Polluted Cities | State of the Air
Los Angeles-Long Beach, CAlos-angeles-long-beach-ca.html1
Bakersfield, CAbakersfield-ca.html2
Visalia, CAvisalia-ca.html3
Fresno-Madera-Hanford, CAfresno-madera-hanford-ca.html4
Phoenix-Mesa, AZphoenix-mesa-az.html5
20 more rows

What state has the best air quality? ›

Hawaii ranks first in the nation for air and water quality, as well as in the overall natural environment category. Massachusetts places second in this subcategory, followed by North Dakota, Virginia and Florida. Learn more about the Best States for air and water quality below.

Which city has the best AQI? ›

World major city air quality ranking
#cityUS AQI
1Lahore, Pakistan168
2Wuhan, China165
3Dhaka, Bangladesh158
4Tashkent, Uzbekistan154
6 more rows
30 Sept 2022

What time of day is air quality the best? ›

In particular, it peaks between 7:00 to 10:00 AM (LST) and 9:00 to 11:00 PM (LST). On the other hand, it's lowest in the afternoon, particularly between 3:00 to 5:00 PM (LST).

Why is Sacramento air quality so bad right now? ›

Sacramento's unhealthy air quality is largely the result of transportation exhaust, which serves as the most significant single source of air pollution in the area. Daily emissions are often exacerbated by environmental factors of the Sacramento valley, which can lead to an accumulation of polluted air.

Is Sacramento good for asthma? ›

But the City of Trees is one of the top places to live in 2022 if you have allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Why is Sacramento so dusty? ›

More hot days as a result of climate change mean emissions are being turned into ozone more often. Higher temperatures also extend the wildfire season by delaying winter rains, which explains why Sacramento's particle pollution ranking got worse in the 2019 report.

Can I swim in Sacramento River? ›

Located on the Sacramento River, Sand Cove Park is a popular destination for swimming, fishing and enjoying a nice day outdoors. A trail leads visitors from the parking lot to a sandy beach along the river, where people of all ages can come and enjoy some summer fun.

Where does Sacramento get its water? ›

About 80 percent of the City's water supply is surface water and comes from the Sacramento and American rivers. The remaining 20 percent of water comes from a system of about 28 groundwater wells that pull water from an underground layer that acts like a reservoir..

Is there E. coli in the Sacramento River? ›

coli found in lower section of American River. SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Several points in the lower section of the American have shown to be containing higher levels of E. coli , and the majority of the fecal matter comes from birds and dogs, according to the California State Water Resources Control Board.

Is Sacramento a good place to live? ›

Sacramento is one of the best places to live in California! With a current population of 500,930 people, many families and techies from the Bay Area are relocating to Sacramento for its high quality of life and affordable homes.

Does Sacramento have all 4 seasons? ›

In Sacramento, the summers are hot, arid, and mostly clear and the winters are short, cold, wet, and partly cloudy. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 39°F to 94°F and is rarely below 31°F or above 102°F.

Why is Sacramento so hot? ›

Low elevation, foehn winds, no continental polar air mass intrusions, placement of the Pacific semi-permanent high pressure, and high pressure retrograding from the Great Basin are the key factors. Temperatures in Sacramento vary greatly depending on the direction of the winds.

How do you test air quality in your home? ›

How to test indoor air quality
  1. Purchase an indoor air quality monitor.
  2. Evaluate health symptoms.
  3. Monitor carbon monoxide and radon levels.
  4. Get an air purifier.
  5. Call an air quality professional.
27 Sept 2022

What is the current and maximum particulate matter AQI today Roseville? ›

Roseville-N Sunrise Ave, Placer, California Air Pollution: Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI)
PM2.5 AQI5763
PM10 AQI1451
O3 AQI057
NO2 AQI421
4 more rows

What's the dirtiest city in California? ›

State of the Air: California's Most Polluted Cities
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach (#1 nationally)
  • Bakersfield (#2 nationally)
  • Visalia (#3 nationally)
  • Fresno-Madera-Hanford (#4 nationally)
  • San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad (#6 nationally)
  • Sacramento-Roseville (#9 nationally)
  • San Jose-San Francisco-San Jose (#13 nationally)
26 Apr 2022

What state is least polluted? ›

Here are the seven least polluted states, according to the ranking:
  • Vermont.
  • New Hampshire.
  • South Dakota.
  • New Mexico.
  • Wyoming.
  • California.
  • Rhode Island.
24 Sept 2022

What are the 5 worst states to live in for air quality? ›

The Top Seven U.S. States with the Worst Air Quality
  • #1: California. California consistently ranks as the most polluted state in the country. ...
  • #2: Pennsylvania. ...
  • #3: Texas. ...
  • #4: Washington. ...
  • #5: Oregon. ...
  • #6: Alaska. ...
  • #7: Utah.
16 Oct 2019

Where is the purest air in the world? ›

Finland has the cleanest air in the world

Air quality in Finland is the best in the world according to data released by the World Health Organisation, WHO. The level of airborne particles in Finland is on average 6 micrograms per cubic metre – the lowest level for any individual country.

Where is the healthiest air in the United States? ›

Hawaii has, on average, the cleanest air in the USA overall. It has an AQI value of 21.2, which is in the healthy range set by the EPA. The American Lung Association ranks two cities in Hawaii in the top 25 cleanest US cities for year-round particle pollution.

What is the smoggiest city in the world? ›

World air quality report
1Bhiwadi, India86.5
2Ghaziabad, India52.9
3Hotan, China167.4
4Delhi, India47.4
20 more rows

What is the best state to live in USA 2022? ›

According to the report, the best state to live in the U.S. is Massachusetts. That isn't the only northern state to appear near the top of the rankings. New Jersey, New York, Idaho, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Minnesota, and Wisconsin all made the top 10.

What is the cleanest city in America? ›

According to our research, Long Beach is the cleanest city in the U.S. It is a strong performer across the majority of categories, with particular highlights in the 'restaurant cleanliness', 'electric vehicle market share' and 'general garbage disposal satisfaction' categories.

What is the best state to live in? ›

The top state is Massachusetts, which ranked first in the nation for education and health, fourth for safety, sixth for quality of life, and 10th for its economy. It did rank a low 44th out of 50 states for affordability, but its overall score was enough to eke out a win over the closely-second next state.

What is the most polluted city in the world 2022? ›

According to a report called the Air Quality and Health in Cities, released by US-based Health Effects Institute last week, India's capital city New Delhi is the most polluted city in the entire world, with West Bengal's Kolkata bagging the second spot.

Which city is pollution free in world? ›

1. Zurich, Switzerland (0.51µg/m3) Zurich is the least polluted city in 2021 and is recognized for its clean air.

Who has best air quality in the world? ›

World major city air quality ranking
#cityUS AQI
1Beijing, China154
2Delhi, India153
3Incheon, South Korea151
4Wuhan, China139
6 more rows
30 Sept 2022

Why is morning air the cleanest? ›

Early in the morning the air is fresh, and has less pollutants due to low vehicular traffic. Breathing less polluted air gives us the feeling of freshness. After 10 a.m., vehicular traffic increases.

Is air quality better by ocean? ›

Did you know that salty air from the ocean's surface can help to reduce ozone air pollution, particularly in coastal areas? Ozone is a harmful pollutant that forms when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds are emitted from motor vehicles, power plants, and industry, and then chemically interact in sunlight.

Why is air quality so poor in Sacramento? ›

Sacramento's unhealthy air quality is largely the result of transportation exhaust, which serves as the most significant single source of air pollution in the area. Daily emissions are often exacerbated by environmental factors of the Sacramento valley, which can lead to an accumulation of polluted air.

Can you swim in the Sacramento River? ›

Located on the Sacramento River, Sand Cove Park is a popular destination for swimming, fishing and enjoying a nice day outdoors. A trail leads visitors from the parking lot to a sandy beach along the river, where people of all ages can come and enjoy some summer fun.

Why is Smog bad for the environment? ›

Air pollution affects all things. It is harmful to our health, and it impacts the environment by reducing visibility and blocking sunlight, causing acid rain, and harming forests, wildlife, and agriculture. Greenhouse gas pollution, the cause of climate change, affects the entire planet.

Where does Sacramento County get its water? ›

About 80 percent of the City's water supply is surface water and comes from the Sacramento and American rivers. The remaining 20 percent of water comes from a system of about 28 groundwater wells that pull water from an underground layer that acts like a reservoir..

Where is all the smoke in Sacramento coming from? ›

PLACER COUNTY – Smoke from the Mosquito Fire burning in rural Placer and El Dorado counties is making the air unhealthy to breathe in the Sacramento region. The National Weather Service says wildfire smoke is expected to continue to impact the region, including the Sacramento area, for the next several days.

Is the air dry in Sacramento? ›

Sacramento, CA can suffer from dry conditions in summer and winter. Dry air creates its own set of problems. One of them is that it adds an unpleasant edge to cooler weather.

What is causing poor air quality? ›

Sources of Outdoor Air Pollution

Electric utilities burning coal, natural gas, oil and biomass produce air pollutants that harm lung health. Vehicles and equipment used to move people, goods and fuel from one place to another can pollute the air and harm human health.

Is the Sacramento River freshwater or saltwater? ›

The fresh water inflow and outflow of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is critical to its vitality and survival. Freshwater flows from the Delta meets saltwater from the ocean near Suisun Marsh located to the east of San Francisco Bay.

How deep is the Sacramento River? ›

The controlling depth in the river route is about 10 feet. Above Sacramento, the controlling depth is about 6 feet to Colusa. The sounding datum is mean lower low water at low-river stage. Numerous uncharted piles, snags, pumps, and pipes, some submerged, may exist along the edges of the river.

What fish live in the Sacramento River? ›

Because of this diversity in run timing, the Sacramento River is occupied by Chinook salmon year-round. Other anadromous fish in the Sacramento River watershed include steelhead, green and white sturgeon, and lampreys. A map of historic salmon habitat in the California Central Valley.

How we can solve air pollution? ›

On Days when High Particle Levels are Expected, Take these Extra Steps to Reduce Pollution:
  1. Reduce the number of trips you take in your car.
  2. Reduce or eliminate fireplace and wood stove use.
  3. Avoid burning leaves, trash, and other materials.
  4. Avoid using gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.
28 Mar 2022

How we can reduce air pollution? ›

Reducing energy consumption helps reduce air pollution. If less gasoline, natural gas and electricity (power plants burn fossil fuels to generate electricity) are used, not only do your bills decrease but less pollutants are emitted.

How can we stop pollution? ›

Lets's discuss these 10 best ways to reduce air pollution.
  1. Using public transports. ...
  2. Turn off the lights when not in use. ...
  3. Recycle and Reuse. ...
  4. No to plastic bags. ...
  5. Reduction of forest fires and smoking. ...
  6. Use of fans instead of Air Conditioner. ...
  7. Use filters for chimneys. ...
  8. Avoid usage of crackers.
8 Sept 2017

Is tap water in Sacramento safe to drink? ›

Frequently Asked Questions. Is my drinking water safe to drink? Your water meets or exceeds all state and federal drinking water standards. Staff work 24/7 to monitor your water for safety and water quality.

What state has the most drinking water? ›

Hawaii ranks No. 1 for drinking water quality and No. 2 for urban air quality, leading to its top spot in the natural environment category. Learn more about Hawaii.

Is Sacramento water fluoridated? ›

The Water Agency currently fluoridates all of its water with the exception of a small industrial area in Northgate.


1. How bad air quality and smoke affects you
2. How Wildfires and Ozone led to Terrible Air Quality in US Cities
(NOVA PBS Official)
3. More than 20 California cities listed as having "unhealthy air"
(CBS News)
4. Air Quality: How the Caldor and Dixie Fire are impacting Sacramento
5. Experts Explain Why Air Quality And Smoke Levels Are Different Around Sacramento Region
(CBS Sacramento)
6. Air Pollution Expert Advises Parents Concerned Over Effects of Poor Air Quality on Children
(KPIX CBS SF Bay Area)
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