Coping with a future of smoky skies and poor air quality

Smoky skyline in St. Paul
The St. Paul skyline, seen from High Bridge Overlook, is obscured by wildfire smoke during the air quality alert on June 28.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Do you remember when you walked outside in June and the sun was smoldering red in a hazy sky? That was pollution in the air from wildfires burning a thousand miles away in Canada, fires made more fierce by drought and climate warming. 

Minnesota has experienced its worst air quality on record in 2023. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued 24 air quality alerts so far this year for days when the air was polluted enough to be considered either unsafe for everyone or unsafe for vulnerable groups. One day, the Twin Cities had the worst air quality in the country. 

The United States is likely to face more drought, heat and smoky skies in the next decades, which means more air pollution. What does that mean for our health? 

MPR News Host Angela Davis talks about why air quality is a rising concern and how we can cope with it, as individuals and communities. 


  • Dr. Laalitha Surapaneni is an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School and a hospitalist with M Health Fairview. She also co-chairs the Climate Health Action Program in the Department of Medicine and is an associate at U of MN’s Institute on the Environment. 

  • Jamie Beck Alexander is a climate activist in Duluth and founding director of Drawdown Labs at Project Drawdown — a nonprofit organization that provides resources for climate solutions.

  • Matt Taraldsen is a meteorologist and supervisor of the team that issues air quality conditions, alerts and forecasts at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. 

    two woman sitting in a studio
    MPR News Host Angela Davis and Dr. Laalitha Surapaneni at the MPR News Headquarters in St. Paul on Thursday.
    Danelle Cloutier | MPR News

Subscribe to the MPR News with Angela Davis podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or RSS. 

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.   

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