Canberra has had at least seven times as many days where air quality was at hazardous levels in the past month as it had in the past seven years, new analysis has shown, as the ACT grapples with how to handle protracted periods of poor air quality.
Air quality index data reveals prior to the North Black Range bushfire, west of Braidwood, breaking out on November 28, there had been only four days where air quality stations in the ACT recorded ratings above a hazardous level from 2013 to 2019.
But since there have been 33 days where ratings have been above hazardous across the three air quality stations in the ACT in Civic, Florey and Monash.
Canberra's air quality has been among the worst of major cities in the world.
The highest index ratings were recorded on New Year's Day, all in Monash, where it peaked at 5185 - more than 25 times above hazardous levels.
An air quality index above 200 is considered to be hazardous.
The data is based on the 24-hour rolling average of the air quality index that measures the concentration of fine particles in the air smaller than 2.5 microns (PM 2.5).
This measurement is based on the national standard that measures all the pollutants in the air.
It comes as ACT Health bowed to public pressure and started publishing hourly results on the fine particulate matter. This new measurement correlates to the PM 2.5 readings and does not take into account the air quality index.
ACT Health said it would continue to base its cautionary health advice on the 24 hour rolling averages.
Experts have warned the ACT's response to smoke haze has showed inadequacies in the territory's disaster planning. An example being the distribution of P2 face masks after there was a citywide shortage last week.
On Sunday, the ACT government accepted an offer of 100,000 P2 masks from the Commonwealth.
The smoke haze has also resulted in a number of closures of national institutions and public pools. Questacon was forced to close its doors on Thursday for the third day this week. Normally, people would turn to pools and public air-conditioned buildings for respite from the heat.
On Thursday afternoon, Canberra enjoyed a reprieve from the smoke haze with the PM 2.5 hourly data showing ratings across the three stations classified as very good.
But smoke haze is set to engulf the territory again on Friday evening and linger into Saturday, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
"We are expecting there will be a change that will move through the ACT and that will bring winds that will be from the southeast and that will obviously blow a lot of smoke from fires east of Canberra," bureau meteorologist Elli Blandford said.
"With the changes coming through there could be a small chance of some razed dust around meaning slightly hazier conditions could impact Canberra before the main change comes through."