Fire season is closely approaching and as somebody that spent two weeks last year hunkered down inside with my browser glued to various air quality sites, I wanted to show how to use data from OpenAQ to build your own air quality analysis.

With Amazon EMR on EKS, you can now customize and package your own Apache Spark dependencies and I use that functionality for this post.


OpenAQ maintains a publicly accessible dataset of various air quality metrics that’s updated every half hour. Bokeh is a popular library for Python data visualization. While it includes sample data for US county and state boundaries, we’re going to use shapefiles from

We’ll use an Apache Spark job on EMR on EKS to read the initial dataset from the S3 bucket, filter it for use case, and then combine it with the boundary data from in order to draw a map of the current air quality.

This post also shows how to use the custom containers support in EMR on EKS to build our own container image with the necessary dependencies.


  • An AWS account with access to Amazon Elastic Container Registry (ECR)
  • An EMR on EKS cluster already setup
  • Docker
  • A container registry to push your image to

Building the EMR on EKS Container Image

Download the EMR base image

For this post, we’ll be using the us-west-2 region and EMR 6.3.0 release. Each region and release has a different base image URL, and you can find the full list here.

aws ecr get-login-password --region us-west-2 \
    | docker login --username AWS --password-stdin

docker pull

Customize the image

EMR on EKS comes with a variety of default libraries installed including plotly and seaborn, but we wanted to try out Bokeh for my illustration as they have a great choropleth example and it’s a library I’ve been hearing about occasionally. I was hoping to use Bokeh’s sampledata for US and county, but I ended up using GeoPandas to re-project my map to a conic projection so Michigan wasn’t squashed up against Wisconsin. :) GeoPandas makes it easy to read in shapefiles, so I just used the provided state and county data.

Bokeh also uses Selenium and Chrome for it’s static image generation, so we go ahead and install Chrome on the container image as well.


USER root

# Install Chrome
RUN curl | bash && \
    mv /usr/bin/google-chrome-stable /usr/bin/chrome

# We need to upgrade pip in order to install pyproj
RUN pip3 install --upgrade pip

# If you pip install as root, use this
RUN pip3 install \
    bokeh==2.3.2 \
    boto3==1.17.93 \
    chromedriver-py==91.0.4472.19.0 \
    geopandas==0.9.0 \
    selenium==3.141.0 \

RUN ln -s /usr/local/lib/python3.7/site-packages/chromedriver_py/chromedriver_linux64 /usr/local/bin/chromedriver

# Install bokeh sample data to /usr/local/share
RUN mkdir /root/.bokeh && \
    echo "sampledata_dir: /usr/local/share/bokeh" > /root/.bokeh/config && \
    bokeh sampledata

# Also install census data into the image :)
ADD  /usr/local/share/bokeh/
ADD /usr/local/share/bokeh/
RUN chmod 644 /usr/local/share/bokeh/cb*.zip

# This is a simple test to make sure generating the image works properly
COPY test /test/

USER hadoop:hadoop

Build and push

Great, we’ve customized our image – now we just need to build and push it to a container registery somewhere! For this post, I chose GitHub but you can use any container registry like ECR or DockerHub.

The below commands assume you have a GitHub Personal Access Token that has access to push images in the CR_PAT environment variable.

docker build -t emr-6.3.0-bokeh:latest .

echo $CR_PAT| docker login -u ${USERNAME} --password-stdin
docker tag emr-6.3.0-bokeh:latest${USERNAME}/emr-6.3.0-bokeh:latest
docker push${USERNAME}/emr-6.3.0-bokeh:latest

Great, now your image is ready to go! Let’s look at the code we’re going to use to generate our air quality map.

Code walkthrough

If you already built your image, you can run the below code locally. In order to access S3 data, you’ll have to set your AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID and AWS_SECRET_KEY_ID environment variables.

docker run --rm -it --name airq-demo \
    emr-6.3.0-bokeh \
    pyspark --deploy-mode client --master 'local[1]'

Reading and filtering OpenAQ Data

The first thing we need to do is read the the data for today’s date into a Spark dataframe.

import datetime

date = f"{datetime.datetime.utcnow().date()}"
df ="s3://openaq-fetches/realtime-gzipped/{date}/")
|         attribution|averagingPeriod|     city|         coordinates|country|                date|            location|mobile|parameter|       sourceName|sourceType| unit|value|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-13T22:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 25.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-13T23:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 16.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T00:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 18.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T01:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 23.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T02:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 23.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T03:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 21.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T04:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 20.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T05:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 16.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T06:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 17.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T07:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 18.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T08:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 20.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T09:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 26.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T10:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 29.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T11:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 34.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T12:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 33.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T13:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 40.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T14:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 39.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T15:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 41.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T16:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 50.0|
|[{EPA AirNow DOS,...|   {hours, 1.0}|Abu Dhabi|{24.424399, 54.43...|     AE|{2021-06-14T17:00...|US Diplomatic Pos...| false|     pm25|StateAir_AbuDhabi|government|µg/m³| 56.0|

We can quickly see a few things:

  1. Data is provided from all over the globe, we just want US
  2. We have coordinates and country, but that’s it for location data
  3. There are multiple different types of readings
  4. There are multiple different readings per day per location'unit', 'parameter').distinct().sort("parameter").show()
| unit|parameter|
|µg/m³|       bc|
|µg/m³|       co|
|  ppm|       co|
|  ppm|      no2|
|µg/m³|      no2|
|µg/m³|       o3|
|  ppm|       o3|
|µg/m³|     pm10|
|µg/m³|     pm25|
|  ppm|      so2|
|µg/m³|      so2|

So, let’s go ahead and filter down to the most recent PM2.5 reading in the United States.

To do that, it’s a couple where filters and then we can utilize a window function (last) to get the last reading.

# Filter down to US locations and PM2.5 readings only
usdf = (
    df.where( == "US")
    .where(df.parameter == "pm25")
    .select("coordinates", "date", "parameter", "unit", "value", "location")

# Retrieve the most recent pm2.5 reading per county
from pyspark.sql.window import Window
from pyspark.sql.functions import last
windowSpec = (
    .rangeBetween(Window.unboundedPreceding, Window.unboundedFollowing)
last_reading_df = (
    usdf.withColumn("last_value", last("value").over(windowSpec))
    .select("coordinates", "last_value")

We also only selected the coordinates and last_value columns as these are all we need at this point.

|         coordinates|last_value|
|{38.6619, -121.7278}|       2.0|
| {41.9767, -91.6878}|       4.9|
|{39.54092, -119.7...|       8.0|
|{43.629605, -72.3...|       9.0|
|{46.8505, -111.98...|      10.0|
|{39.818715, -75.4...|       8.5|

Mapping coordinates to counties

This was the most “fun” part of this journey. Bokeh provides some sample data and I initially just created a UDF that looked up the first county ID using the Polygon intersects method. Unfortunately, I then wanted to re-project the map to a conical projection (Albers). Bokeh’s geo support isn’t very strong, so I ended up looking at using GeoPandas to do the reprojection. That worked well, but the Bokeh county data wasn’t in a format I could use with GeoPandas so I ended up downloading Shapefiles from the Census Bureau.

So, we’ve got our last_reading_df dataframe. Lets map those coordinates to counties. The county data is relatively small (12mb zipped) so what I did was create a broadcast variable of GEOID -> Geometry mappings that could be used in a UDF to figure out if a PM2.5 reading is inside a specific county.

  • Download the census data and create a broadcast variable
import geopandas as gpd


countydf = gpd.read_file(COUNTY_URL)
bc_county = sc.broadcast(dict(zip(countydf["GEOID"], countydf["geometry"])))


We can see we’re just mapping the GEOID column to the geometry column which is a polygon object containing the county boundaries.

  STATEFP COUNTYFP  COUNTYNS        AFFGEOID  GEOID       NAME          NAMELSAD STUSPS  STATE_NAME LSAD       ALAND     AWATER                                           geometry
0      21      141  00516917  0500000US21141  21141      Logan      Logan County     KY    Kentucky   06  1430224002   12479211  POLYGON ((-87.06037 36.68085, -87.06002 36.708...
1      36      081  00974139  0500000US36081  36081     Queens     Queens County     NY    New York   06   281594050  188444349  POLYGON ((-73.96262 40.73903, -73.96243 40.739...
2      34      017  00882278  0500000US34017  34017     Hudson     Hudson County     NJ  New Jersey   06   119640822   41836491  MULTIPOLYGON (((-74.04220 40.69997, -74.03900 ...
3      34      019  00882228  0500000US34019  34019  Hunterdon  Hunterdon County     NJ  New Jersey   06  1108086284   24761598  POLYGON ((-75.19511 40.57969, -75.19466 40.581...
4      21      147  00516926  0500000US21147  21147   McCreary   McCreary County     KY    Kentucky   06  1105416696   10730402  POLYGON ((-84.77845 36.60329, -84.73068 36.665...
  • Create a UDF to find the county a coordinate is in

This just brute forces the list of GEOIDs/polygons and returns the first GEOID that intersects. There is likely a more elegant to do this.

from pyspark.sql.functions import udf
from pyspark.sql.types import StringType
from shapely.geometry import Point

def find_first_county_id(longitude: float, latitude: float):
    p = Point(longitude, latitude)
    for index, geo in bc_county.value.items():
        if geo.intersects(p):
            return index
    return None

find_first_county_id_udf = udf(find_first_county_id, StringType())
  • Now we apply to the UDF to our last_reading_df dataframe
# Find the county that this reading is from
mapped_county_df = last_reading_df.withColumn(
        last_reading_df.coordinates.longitude, last_reading_df.coordinates.latitude
).select("GEOID", "last_value")
  • And then finally we calculate the average PM2.5 value per county
# Calculate the average reading per county
pm_avg_by_county = (
    .agg({"last_value": "avg"})
    .withColumnRenamed("avg(last_value)", "avg_value")
|GEOID|         avg_value|
|31157|              16.0|
|49053|               3.0|
|26153|               6.9|
|36029|               1.1|
|42101|             10.66|

Cool! So now we have a GEOID we can use in our GeoPandas dataframe and an average value of the most recent PM2.5 reading for that county.

Generating our Air Quality map

Now that we’ve got an average PM2.5 value per county, we need to join this with our map data and generate an image!

The first step is reading in US State and County shapefiles. We fetched these from while building the image and they’re stored in /usr/local/share/bokeh. We also exclude any state not in the continental US.

import geopandas as gpd

STATE_FILE = "file:///usr/local/share/bokeh/"
COUNTY_FILE = "file:///usr/local/share/bokeh/"
EXCLUDED_STATES = ["AK", "HI", "PR", "GU", "VI", "MP", "AS"]

county_df = gpd.read_file(COUNTY_FILE).query(f"STUSPS not in {EXCLUDED_STATES}")
state_df = gpd.read_file(STATE_FILE).query(f"STUSPS not in {EXCLUDED_STATES}")

Now we just do a simple merge on the GeoPandas dataframe, convert our maps to the Albers projection and save them as JSON objects.

# Merge in our air quality data
county_aqi_df = county_df.merge(pm_avg_by_county.toPandas(), on="GEOID")

# Convert to a "proper" Albers projection :)
state_json = state_df.to_crs("ESRI:102003").to_json()
county_json = county_aqi_df.to_crs("ESRI:102003").to_json()

Now comes the fun part! Our data is all prepped, we’ve averaged the most recent data by county, and built a GeoJSON file of everything we need. Let’s map it!

I won’t go into the details of every line, but we’ll make use of Bokeh’s awesome GeoJSONDataSource functionality, add a LinearColorMapper that automatically shades the counties for us by the avg_value column using the Reds9 palette, and adds a ColorBar on the right-hand side.

from bokeh.models import ColorBar, GeoJSONDataSource, LinearColorMapper
from bokeh.palettes import Reds9 as palette
from bokeh.plotting import figure

p = figure(
    title="US Air Quality Data",
        ("County", "@NAME"),
        ("Air Quality Index", "@avg_value"),
p.grid.grid_line_color = None

# This just adds our state lines

# Add our county data and shade them based on "avg_value"
color_mapper = LinearColorMapper(palette=tuple(reversed(palette)))
color_column = "avg_value"
    fill_color={"field": color_column, "transform": color_mapper},

# Now add a color bar legend on the right-hand side
color_bar = ColorBar(color_mapper=color_mapper, label_standoff=12, width=10)
p.add_layout(color_bar, "right")

Finally, let’s go ahead export the png!

from import export_png
from import create_chromium_webdriver

driver = create_chromium_webdriver(["--no-sandbox"])
export_png(p, filename="map.png", webdriver=driver)

Now, if you’re running on a mac, you can just copy the generated map to your local system and open it up!

docker cp airq-demo:/home/hadoop/map.png .
open map.png

Air Quality map

Running on EMR on EKS

I’ve bundled this all up into a pyspark script in my demo-code repo.

This demo assumes you already have an EMR on EKS virtual cluster up and running, you’ve built the image in the first part and pushed it to a container registry, and the IAM Role you use to run the job has access to both read and write to an S3 bucket.

First, download the code from the GitHub repo.

Then, upload that script to an S3 bucket you have access to.

aws s3 cp s3://<BUCKET>/code/

Now, just run your job! The pyspark script takes a few parameters:

  • <S3_BUCKET> - The S3 bucket where you want to upload the generated image to
  • <PREFIX> - The prefix in the bucket where you want the image located
  • --date 2021-01-01 (optional) - A specific date for which you want to generate data for
    • Defaults to UTC today
export EMR_EKS_CLUSTER_ID=abcdefghijklmno1234567890
export EMR_EKS_EXECUTION_ARN=arn:aws:iam::123456789012:role/emr_eks_default_role
# Replace below with your image URL
aws emr-containers start-job-run \
    --virtual-cluster-id ${EMR_EKS_CLUSTER_ID} \
    --name openaq-conus \
    --execution-role-arn ${EMR_EKS_EXECUTION_ARN} \
    --release-label emr-6.3.0-latest \
    --job-driver '{
        "sparkSubmitJobDriver": {
            "entryPoint": "s3://'${S3_BUCKET}'/code/",
            "entryPointArguments": ["'${S3_BUCKET}'", "output/airq/"],
            "sparkSubmitParameters": "--conf"
    }' \
    --configuration-overrides '{
        "monitoringConfiguration": {
            "s3MonitoringConfiguration": { "logUri": "s3://'${S3_BUCKET}'/logs/" }
    "id": "0000000abcdefg12345",
    "name": "openaq-conus",
    "arn": "arn:aws:emr-containers:us-east-2:123456789012:/virtualclusters/abcdefghijklmno1234567890/jobruns/0000000abcdefg12345",
    "virtualClusterId": "abcdefghijklmno1234567890"

While the job is running, you can get the fetch the status of the job using the emr-containers describe-job-run command.

aws emr-containers describe-job-run \
    --virtual-cluster-id ${EMR_EKS_CLUSTER_ID} \
    --id 0000000abcdefg12345

Once the job is in the COMPLETED state, you should be able to copy the resulting image from your S3 bucket!

aws s3 cp s3://${S3_BUCKET}/output/airq/2021-06-24-latest.png .

And if you open that file, you’ll get the most recent PM2.5 readings!

Air Quality map


Be sure to check out the launch post for more details, the documentation for customing docker images for EMR on EKS, and my demo video.