Minnesota’s degraded air quality is turning into a theme in the early part of this warm season. Our latest air quality alert is extended until 6 p.m Tuesday.
You can see from the map below that air quality Monday afternoon has reached the red (unhealthy) level across parts of eastern Minnesota and much of Wisconsin, meaning that some people “may experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.”
There are now two different source regions of smoke from wildfires in Canada — one in western Canada and a second in eastern Canada. Either plume can push toward Minnesota depending on wind direction aloft.
This current plume of wildfire smoke blew in from wildfires in the province of Quebec in eastern Canada. You can see the thick plumes of smoke across eastern Canada and the Great Lakes on Monday’s smoke map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Grow the Future of Public Media
MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!
Our easterly wind flow has pushed some of that smoke plume across Minnesota. The smoke layers are even thicker across Wisconsin and Illinois.
Check out the satellite loop from the Chicago National Weather Service office:
And our stagnant warm air mass is producing ground-level ozone.
Here’s the wording on the latest air quality alert extension from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency:
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has expanded the air quality alert for east central and southeastern Minnesota to include the North Shore and Duluth area. The alert is now effective until 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 6. The affected area includes the Twin Cities, Albert Lea, Rochester, Mankato, Hinckley, Duluth, Two Harbors, and the tribals nations of Prairie Island, Mille Lacs, Fond du Lac, and Grand Portage.
A band of smoke from wildfires in Quebec will continue to linger across east central and southeast Minnesota today due to very light winds. Another band of smoke is also moving into the state off Lake Superior. Air quality will continue to be poor today across east central and southeast Minnesota, with the heaviest smoke expected to be near Rochester and Winona. Air quality is quickly deteriorating across northeast Minnesota, as the second wave of smoke moves into that area. Air quality should improve across northeast Minnesota tomorrow morning as smoke moves south and exits the region. However, smoke will linger across east central and southeast Minnesota through late Tuesday.
Fine particle levels are expected to reach the red air quality index (AQI) category, a level considered unhealthy for everyone, across southeast Minnesota. This area includes Rochester and Winona. In the red area, everyone should avoid prolonged time outdoors.
Fine particle levels are expected to reach the orange air quality index (AQI) category, a level considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, across east central Minnesota. The alert area includes the Twin Cities, Albert Lea, Mankato, Hinckley, Duluth, Two Harbors, and the tribal nations of Prairie Island, Mille Lacs, Fond du Lac, and Grand Portage. In the orange area, sensitive groups should avoid prolonged time outdoors.
What this alert means
Air moves long distances and carries pollutants. During air quality alerts due to wildfires, the air is mixed with harmful smoke. Wildfire smoke spreads or lingers depending on the size of the fires, the wind, and the weather.
The air quality index (AQI) is color-coded. Air quality alerts are issued when the AQI is forecast to reach an unhealthy level, which includes forecasts in the orange, red, purple, and maroon categories. For a full description of each air quality category, visit airnow.gov.
Red air quality: Unhealthy for everybody
Sights and smells: In areas where air quality is in the red AQI category due to wildfires, the sky may look smoky. The air will look hazy, and you won’t be able to see long distances. You may smell smoke.
Health effects: This air is unhealthy for everyone. Anyone may begin to experience symptoms such as irritated eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, chest tightness, or shortness of breath. Sensitive or more exposed individuals may experience more serious health effects, including worsening of existing heart or lung disease and respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, possibly leading to an asthma attack, heart attack, or stroke.
What to do: Reduce outdoor physical activities, take more breaks, and avoid intense activities to reduce exposure. Sensitive and more exposed individuals should avoid prolonged or vigorous activities and consider shortening, rescheduling, or moving outdoor events inside.