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Visual Air Quality

What is visual air quality?

When you look at an object in the distance against a background of sky, how does it appear? Is it hazy and washed out? or does the object look vivid in colour and clarity?  “Visual air quality” is the term we use to describe the effect that air pollution has on the view. Learn more

In Metro Vancouver and the Lower Fraser Valley, we monitor visual air quality with a series of live camera feeds and other instruments. Learn more

Click on your community to view current visual air quality conditions.

Lions Bay
Pitt Meadows
Vancouver Harbour


What causes poor visual air quality?

Poor visual air quality occurs when sunlight mingles with microscopic particles in the air. These particles absorb or scatter sunlight making objects and scenery appear less vivid. The more pollutants in the air, the more hazy the view can appear. Learn more

Weather conditions such as temperature, wind speed, and humidity can also affect the clarity of the air. Learn more



Where do air pollutants come from?

Air pollutants come from a variety of sources including dust, soot from fires, automobiles, ships, industrial and manufacturing activities. Some haze-causing particles are directly emitted to the air. Downwind from their emission sources, gases can also react together to form microscopic particles. Learn more


Can pollutants affect your health? 

The air we breathe affects us no matter who we are or where we live. Even though you can’t always see it or smell it, air pollution can affect our health in a variety of ways. However, hazy air may be a sign that air pollution has increased. Air pollution can have a negative effect on your respiratory system (lungs and airways), and on your cardiovascular system (heart function and blood circulation). While air pollution affects individuals in different ways, groups who are especially sensitive or at-risk include children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing cardiac or respiratory diseases. Learn more


Why is it important to have good visual air quality?

Many of us use the clarity of the air as a marker for air quality conditions. For many, visible pollution signals that the air quality may be unhealthy, particularly for people with existing respiratory problems. Learn more


Does visual air quality have any link to global warming/climate change?

Air pollution and climate change are linked. Microscopic particles and smog-forming pollutants are often emitted from the same sources as greenhouse gases. However, it is not yet clear whether improving air quality will enhance or slow climate change. Some microscopic particles may absorb sunlight and enhance warming, while others may reflect sunlight and result in a cooling environment.

Learn more about what the Province of BC is doing to address climate change.