Canadian Wildfires Affect Upper Midwest’s Air Quality for Second Year, Impact and Future for Illinois

Estimated read time 4 min read

For two years straight, Canadian wildfires have been harming air quality in the Upper Midwest. Smoke from fires in British Columbia and Alberta has clouded the skies of Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin since last Sunday.


Warnings for Health Safety Issued

Due to increased air pollution, several states have put out health warnings,

  • The ‘Minnesota Pollution Control Agency‘ made first statewide alert for this season’s air quality. Originally set to expire on Monday noon, they extended it until 11 p.m., including the Twin Cities metro area.
  • In Wisconsin, The Department of Natural Resources reported unhealthy air quality levels for people who are sensitive to pollution across two thirds of the state. They extended these warnings until Monday at midnight.
  • In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on Monday, residents reported smoky conditions and a significant smoke smell. Joe Phillips, a meteorologist in Marquette confirmed this.


Illinois Aware of Possible Smoke Swirl

The smoke looks likely to spread towards the east, Rafal Ogorek, a meteorologist with National Weather Service Chicago stated that the smoke might get blown toward Iowa and Chicago due to current wind directions. This could make skies appear milky as soon as late Tuesday or early Wednesday morning.


Simplified Air Quality Index

Know Your Risk the Air Quality Index (AQI) tool can explain pollution levels and related health risks

  • Green (Good): 0 to 50 – Air quality is satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.
  • Yellow (Moderate): 51 to 100 – Air quality is acceptable; however, there may be a risk for some people, particularly those who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.
  • Orange (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups): 101 to 150 – Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is not likely to be affected.
  • Red (Unhealthy): 151 to 200 – Some members of the general public may experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.
  • Purple (Very Unhealthy): 201 to 300 – Health alert: The risk of health effects is increased for everyone.
  • Maroon (Hazardous): 301 and higher – Health warning of emergency conditions: everyone is more likely to be affected.


Comparative Analysis on Wildfire Trends in Canada

Wildfire situation in Canada seems less intense this year but still it’s serious.

  • There were around ’90 wildfires’ reported to be active which has decreased from the previous year’s 200 compared during mid-May.
  • Despite reduction, potential of more wildfire is still evident, mainly due to dry conditions and chance lighting strikes can aggravate fire in Northeast British Columbia, Northwestern Alberta and Southern Northwest Territories dominated with forests.

Implications of Climate Change

Research conducted by Harvard University and the World Weather Attribution suggests climate change as a possible cause for worsening wildfire conditions. According to Loretta Mickley, who leads the Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling Group at Harvard, fire activity has increased which aligns with predictions regarding global warming, making it hard to make forecasts for future fire seasons.

Future Impact on Illinois?

Illinois may soon see the impact as smoke continues to spread especially Chicago area. The smoke could start dropping closer to ground level degrading the air quality even more recommendations for residents Owing to potential degradation of air quality. Health officials advise residents mainly vulnerable groups keep track of local environmental and health bulletins. Recommendations include, staying indoors when air quality is bad limitations on outdoor physical activities to lessen exposure to unhealthy air.


Considering the evolving situation, Midwest especially Illinois should prepare for possible degradation of air quality due to Canadian wildfire effects. Constant monitoring and active response are crucial in lessening the impact on citizens health. Residents are encouraged to keep track of updates from health and environmental authorities and take necessary precautions for their health.

Celina Brooks

Celina Brooks from Mussoorie is a Writer & Researcher. She earned her Engineering degree in IT from Rutgers University. She is a technology enthusiast but loves writing and talking about local news as well. She is a jolly person with 2 children.

+ There are no comments

Add yours