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.
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.”
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.
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