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Smoke Alert: Thick plume triggers weekend air alert for all of Minnesota

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A massive smoke plume is pushing across Minnesota skies Friday.

The plume originates from wildfires in western Canada. The plume is so large it covers much of North America.

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Air quality alert for all of Minnesota

I can't ever recall seeing a statewide air quality alert happen on a summer weekend. If it has, it's certainly a rare event. Here's the latest on the air quality alert for all of Minnesota this weekend.

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Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued a statewide air quality alert due to smoke spreading across northern Minnesota Friday, and southern Minnesota on Saturday.

Smoke from wildfires in western Canada will continue to affect Minnesota Friday afternoon and evening. Air Quality Indices (AQIs) in the orange category will spread eastward across northern Minnesota Friday evening, making air quality unhealthy for sensitive groups. AQIs will also be orange across far western Minnesota Friday evening as smoke continues to sit over that region.

Meanwhile a thick blanket of smoke is expected to arrive in the upper-levels of the atmosphere this afternoon and evening across southern parts of the state. However, smoke is not expected to impact air quality from St Cloud, to the Twin Cities and Rochester until midday Saturday. Periods of smoke and orange AQIs will linger over the state Saturday night before a south wind brings in cleaner air by Sunday afternoon.

Climate change link?

So can we blame this individual smoke event on climate change? That's still somewhat of a work in progress in climate science. My common sense assessment is these smoke events are likely to be more frequent in Minnesota skies as a warmer climate drives more wildfires.  And the climate change links to increased wildfire activity are clear.

Forecast: Status quo

Friday was day 15 of 90-degree heat this summer at MSP Airport. Our annual average is 13 days. We'll likely add 1 or 2 more days at 90 this weekend.

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NOAA via Weather Bell.

Next rain Tuesday?

Forecast models suggest dry conditions through Monday. Our next rain chance comes as a front sags south Tuesday. Here's NOAA's GFS model.

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NOAA GFS model via tropical tidbits.