Skip to content

Canadian Wildfire Smoke Blankets Midwest, Settles In Major US Cities

Air quality reaches 'very unhealthy' levels, with haze from the wildfires stretching as far as Oklahoma and New York City.
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Canadian wildfire smoke is once again causing air quality to reach unhealthy levels in major cities in the United States, but unlike last week when the thickest smoke blew over the Northeast, the latest spell of smoke is settling across the Midwest.

Smoke started to pour over Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota earlier in the week, and by Thursday morning, wind had carried high-altitude smoke as far south as Oklahoma and as far east as Pennsylvania and New York City. The thickest smoke stretched from southern Minnesota to central Ohio.

NOAA’s GOES-EAST weather satellite spotted the widespread smoke from space on Thursday sandwiched between severe weather over the Gulf Coast states and a low-pressure system swirling over the Great Lakes. Hints of smoke could also be seen in New Jersey and North Carolina.

A satellite image of the United States Thursday morning. Wildfire smoke could be seen over the Plains, Midwest and part of the mid-Atlantic. (NOAA/GOES-EAST)

Air quality was at “very unhealthy” levels on Thursday morning in Minneapolis, according to Plume Labs, an air quality company owned by AccuWeather. This was down from a peak AQI of 247 recorded in the city on Wednesday evening.

“Health effects will be immediately felt by sensitive groups and should avoid outdoor activity,” Plume Labs said. “Healthy individuals are likely to experience difficulty breathing and throat irritation.”

Haze envelopes the Minneapolis skyline from smoke drifted over from the wildfires in Canada, Wednesday, June 14, 2023, in Minneapolis. An air quality alert has been issued for some parts of Minnesota. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

The Chicago skyline was obscured by haze on Thursday morning, with air quality predicted to worsen as wildfire smoke continues to drift over the Midwest.

Unhealthy air quality levels may reach as far east as Cleveland, although conditions are not currently expected to be as extreme as areas farther west in northern Illinois and eastern Iowa.

A map of the Midwest showing air quality on Thursday, June 15, 2023. Areas of red indicate where the air quality is at “unhealthy” levels. (AccuWeather/Plume Labs)

Canadian wildfire smoke is forecast to linger over the Midwest and the Northeast over the next few days before conditions improve.

“It appears that smoke near the surface will not be expanding as much, but it will continue to lead to poor air quality and pockets of lower visibility into [Thursday night] across parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bill Deger explained.

While smoke is expected to stretch over the Northeast, it will be much different than the weather pattern from last week.

For New York City, it will not be a repeat of the apocalyptic scenes of last week,” Deger said. He added that the sky may still appear hazy into Friday, but the smoke should become less prevalent over the New York City area into the weekend as the chance of rain increases.

A similar smoky scene is expected for the Ohio Valley and Northeast as a whole with most of the smoke remaining higher in the atmosphere. The result will be hazy conditions, but air quality could still reach elevated levels that can be hazardous for sensitive groups.

The high-altitude smoke will be more conducive for vivid sunsets, compared to the low-level smoke which is often too thick for the colorful and smoky side effect.


Produced in association with AccuWeather

Edited by Alberto Arellano and Joseph Hammond

“What’s the latest with Florida Man?”

Get news, handpicked just for you, in your box.

Check out our free email newsletters

Recommended from our partners