Something in the air ...  BLANkET - the Base-Line Air Network of EPA Tasmania
Dr John Innis

Senior Scientific Officer, Environment Protection Authority,
Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Hobart

13 May  2010, 8:00 pm

Physics Lecture Theatre 1, University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay



In February 2009 the Environment Division (now the EPA Division) commenced work on a new ambient air monitoring network known as BLANkET. Previously ambient air quality monitoring in Tasmania was confined to the major centres of Hobart and Launceston, and more recently to two locations in the lower Tamar Valley (at George Town and Rowella).

It has been known for some time that, during the autumn forest-industry burning season in Tasmania, smoke can be present in almost any part of the state at various times. There has however been limited quantitative data available to determine concentration levels away from the above mentioned air stations. Consequently, there has been very limited information on the details of smoke movement and dispersal in the various Tasmanian airsheds which could be used to inform and refine the management of smoke from planned burns.

The fine particles present in wood smoke are known to be detrimental to human health; hence a more spatially distributed means of measuring population exposure to smoke was also needed.

To address these data gaps, BLANkET, a network of low-cost particle monitoring and meteorological stations, was designed and implemented in Tasmania. The first stations were deployed in the north-east of the state in May 2009. The 15th station was deployed at Carrick, in the lower Meander Valley west of Launceston, in late March 2010, just prior to the start of the current autumn burning season.

The BLANkET stations report particle concentration data in real-time to central computer in Hobart, and these data are made available almost immediately on the EPA Division web pages.

The BLANkET stations are yielding new and important information about smoke movement in Tasmanian airsheds. This talk will introduce BLANkET, discuss its design and aims, and will present some example data from the first year of operation.


John Innis obtained a BEd (Sci) from Melbourne State College in the early 1980s before completing a BSc(Hons) and Ph.D. in observational astrophysics at the Department of Physics, Monash University. After a short contract at the CSIRO Radiophysics Laboratory, Sydney, he spent five years as a post-doctoral fellow in the Physics Department of the University of Birmingham, UK, also in astrophysics. In 1992 he joined the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), and conducted upper atmosphere studies over the Antarctic winter at Mawson station in 1993 and Davis station in 1999. He was a visiting scholar at the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, also in upper atmosphere studies, from 2001 to 2002, before returning to the AAD to join the middle atmosphere lidar project for five years. John commenced his current position in the Air Section of the Scientific and Technical Branch, EPA Division, in late 2007, where he co-ordinates Tasmania's ambient air monitoring programs

Lecture sponsored by  the School of Mathematics and Physics and the Australian Institute of Physics.