Air quality alert: Massive western smoke plume reaches Minnesota

We’ve been watching smoke drifting aloft over Minnesota from wildfires in the western U.S. and Canada for weeks now.

Now, a more significant smoke plume has reached Minnesota. Some of that smoke is working down to ground level. The plume is clearly visible on NOAA weather satellites. Wednesday afternoon’s images show the clear and massive smoke plume blowing from the northern Rockies into Minnesota.

Image via NOAA.

Air quality readings upstream show smoke is reaching the unhealthy range at ground level in western North Dakota.

Image via Air Now.

Air quality alert

Smoke at ground level is reducing visibility upstream. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an air quality alert for northwest Minnesota into Thursday morning.


The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air quality alert for northwestern and northcentral Minnesota, effective Wednesday, August 8 beginning at 2 p.m. through 10 a.m. Thursday, August 9. The affected area includes the cities of Roseau, International Falls, East Grand Forks, Bemidji and Moorhead and the tribal nations of Red Lake and Leech Lake.

Satellite and surface weather observations show an area of smoke moving into northwestern Minnesota. Visibility in southern Manitoba has decreased to four miles due to smoke, indicating an increase in fine particle concentrations. The smoke plume that originated in western Canada will travel southeastward, reaching International Falls during the afternoon and Red Lake to Bemidji Wednesday evening. Periods of smoke are expected to persist in this area overnight into Thursday morning. During this time, fine particle pollution is expected to remain at or above a level that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Smoke is expected to decrease across the alert area late Thursday morning.

Worse out west

Smoke is so thick from the now record wildfires in California that air quality readings are very unhealthy for much of the west.

The Holy Fire near San Diego is now putting out a big smoke plume in southern California.

The smoke plumes from the western fires are literally covering much of the U.S.

Here’s some good perspective on the bigger connections driving another incredible wildfire season in the west.