Anybody Smell Smoke?

July 7, 2015

activefiresKMSP Minneapolis:

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (KMSP) – Plenty of folks have been asking about the haze and smoke lingering in the sky across Minnesota. That smoke is from wildfires burning in Canada.
Smoke from wildfires in central Saskatchewan is being carried southeast in the mid-levels of the atmosphere, and eventually mixing down to ground level here in Minnesota where we see and feel the effects with poor air quality, limited visibility and a smoky smell to the air we breathe. The silver lining is magnificent sunsets!

Minneapolis air quality worse than Beijing

Monday evening, the air quality index for the Twin Cities was at 187, with fine particle pollution reaching a level considered unhealthy for everyone. By comparison, Beijing had an AQI of 158 on Monday.

An air quality health alert covers the entire state of Minnesota, including the Twin Cities area. The smoke band should move out of the state during the next 12 hours, but smoke may return Tuesday afternoon.

While air quality briefly improved following rain showers on Sunday and Monday, heavy smoke returned to Minnesota behind the storm system. As of 9 a.m. Monday, air quality across the northern two-thirds of Minnesota had reached unhealthy levels. View current air quality conditions at


According to an expert on wildland fires, Saskatchewan’s smoky skies and persistent blazes can be largely attributed to climate change.

Mike Flannigan is a professor in the department of renewable resources at the University of Alberta.

A former weather forecaster with Environment Canada, Flannigan says climate change is contributing to a lazy jet stream, effectively decreasing the energy needed to create rain and wet conditions.

“Normally, a low pressure system comes through every three to five days, giving us rain and keeping the fire problem in check,” he said.

What’s supposed to be “a strong band of wind that carries a low and high pressure system,” with two different spheres of temperature that create high energy, is more like a lazy, “meandering river,” he said.

“As the earth warms, northern areas are warming faster than the equatorial [southern] areas. So the difference between the temperatures is less [between north and south areas].

“Jet stream energy from temperature difference is weaker,” Flannigan explained.

Less energy means fewer opportunities for sustained rain and showers, and that contributes to dryer conditions, he said.

4 Responses to “Anybody Smell Smoke?”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Sven and Ole aren’t the only ones having trouble breathing. The CTV Saskatoon clip is scary, and the NASA Earth Observatory-Natural Hazards site showed pics of smoke over parts of Montana, N and S Dakota, and Iowa as well, and predicted that it would spread over much of the central and eastern U.S. depending on weather patterns. Dirtier air than Beijing? WOW! Hope it gets diluted before it hits NO VA.

    And there are some major fires in Alberta north of the tar sands region as well, and they are contributing to the smoke. Thank you, Canada!

  2. patricklinsley Says:

    And now it’s moved from Minnesota to Wisconsin (an air quality alert for the whole state!). Yay. I’m sure you’ll get a whiff here soon in Michigan too Peter! Global Warming: The gift that just keeps on giving. Ugh.

  3. Yup, I smelt it in Midland, MI, last night. Skies have been hazy here for days, in spite of low humidity.

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