Canadian fires produce worst air quality in memory over Twin Cities

Air quality alerts are in effect for parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Computer forecast models from the FOX Forecast Center suggest wildfire smoke could swing back into the Great Lakes and Northeast by Friday.

Smoke streaming in from Canada from hundreds of wildfires sent air quality readings into the hazardous range for Minneapolis and several other communities throughout Minnesota on Wednesday.

The smoke was thick enough to be detected from space by satellites and made for what meteorologists called stunning imagery.

Canada continues to have one of its worst wildfire seasons, with more than 400 fires sending smoke throughout Canada and into the U.S., creating air quality concerns. Last week, New York City faced its worst Air Quality Index rating on record when the wildfire smoke turned the skies orange and red for hours. 

Extreme wildfire activity, with more than half of the fires considered out of control, will continue to send smoke into the northern U.S. NOAA satellites tracking the smoke and weather patterns show where it's headed next.

More smoke dropping into Upper Midwest

NOAA's GOES East satellite has an instrument called the Advanced Baseline Imager, or ABI, that observes dust, haze, smoke and clouds 24 hours a day.

The Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, or CIRA, shared a loop from satellite imagery showing the wildfire smoke wrapping around a low-pressure system over the Midwest.

The FOX Forecast Center is tracking northerly winds driving smoke down into the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains. This is the same system responsible for the ongoing rain and storms for parts of the Great Lakes and Northeast

On Tuesday, GOES East showed the smoke swirling around the low-pressure system, avoiding the Great Lakes but dropping the smoke into the Dakotas, Nebraska, northwestern Minnesota, Iowa and as far south as parts of Kansas and Missouri.

On Wednesday, parts of Minnesota, including Minneapolis-St. Paul, were experiencing "unhealthy for sensitive groups" or "unhealthy" air quality. To the northwest of Minneapolis, a few cities reached "very unhealthy" or code purple on the AQI. 

Throughout the day Wednesday Air Quality Alerts began popping up in north and central Wisconsin. Later in the day "unhealthy" air quality started to build in northern Wisconsin and "Unhealthy for sensitive groups" near Madison.

According to observation sites, the AQI reached 261 around downtown Minneapolis during the early evening, which was the highest level in memory for the region.

Air quality alerts in effect now.
(FOX Weather)


The Dakotas and Minnesota will experience moderate to thick wildfire smoke by Thursday morning.

Computer forecast models from the FOX Forecast Center suggest wildfire smoke could swing back into the Great Lakes and Northeast by Friday.