Nature and Biodiversity

This 3D map lets you track global pollution in real time

The WHO collects data from countries about their air quality and produces a map showing global pollution hotspots. Image: World Health Organisation

Alex Gray
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Nature and Biodiversity?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Future of the Environment is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Future of the Environment

We know that air pollution is a major contributor to ill health and early death. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 92% of the world’s population live in places where air quality is below guideline levels, and that outdoor air pollution causes the premature deaths of around 3 million people a year.

The WHO collects data from countries about their air quality and produces a map showing global pollution hotspots.

But now we can see how that pollution moves across the globe. A team of experts in computer programming and environmental science has taken air pollution data, combined it with wind speeds, and put it on a 3D model of the Earth.

The company, AirVisual Earth, says it is the “first 3D air pollution map to show the interaction of ambient particulate matter (PM2.5) levels and weather patterns.” Of all air pollutants, PM2.5 is the smallest – and the most dangerous to human health.

Clicking on a spot on the interactive map shows the wind speed and the amount of pollution in the air. For instance, these screenshots show how, on March 6, Mumbai had a wind speed of 13km per hour and a pollution factor of PM2.5 | 94.7 µg/m³. This means that there was a concentration of 94.7 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m³) of fine particles (PM2.5) at that moment.

Image: AirVisual Earth

The WHO says that we need to reduce PM2.5 pollution to an annual average of no more than 10 μg/m³, or a 24-hour average of 25 μg/m³ in order to significantly reduce the risks for acute and chronic health effects.

The colour coding on the map shows areas with very low levels of particulate matter in blue, and areas with the most pollution in dark red.

Image: AirVisual Earth

AirVisual sources its data from satellite imagery and information given to it from over 10,000 monitoring stations. This includes government stations as well as the company’s own air quality monitors.

The company says it wants people to really understand how bad pollution is, so that they will be motivated to do more about it.

It also hopes that its technology will change the way we live. It can deliver three-day air pollution forecasts for 6,000 cities to smartphones, so that people can avoid certain areas if necessary.

Image: AirVisual Earth

“The future in which buildings optimize air purification systems; where maps recommend the least polluted path; and cities adjust emissions based on air quality forecasts – is here,” AirVisual says.

In a world where almost 90% of children live in places where outdoor air pollution exceeds WHO limits, this can only be a good thing.

The designations employed and the presentation of material on this map do not imply the expression of any opinion on the part of the World Economic Forum concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Nature and BiodiversityEnergy TransitionClimate Action
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Ban these companies from advertising, says UN chief, and other nature and climate stories you need to read this week

Michael Purton

June 13, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum