Minnesota air quality setting records because of Canadian wildfires

Minnesota’s air is setting records and not in a good way.

The air quality index reached potentially unhealthy territory again Tuesday.

Conditions weren’t ideal for running or any kind of exertion for most of the day.

But according to one construction crew, it’s just another beautiful day in the neighborhood.

2023 is cementing its place in the history books for most air quality alerts, but this crew working outside in Rogers isn’t bothered by the smoke.

"You don’t even notice it," said Kevin Jordahl of Knife River Concrete. "Some days, like when it’s hazy, it’s just not that sunny."

The foundation to the hazy skies is wildfire smoke from Canada.

"It’s a huge amount of area that’s on fire," said Minnesota Pollution Control Agency supervisory meteorologist Matt Taraldsen.

More than 18.7 million acres have burned in the Great White North — an area equal to about 1/3 of the state of Minnesota.
And there’s still plenty of tinder waiting for a spark.

"This year we’re seeing a really bad season because those fuels were damaged early in the season and haven’t recovered," Taraldsen said. "Things in Canada are just ready to burn."

The fires criss-cross the country, so any wind out of the north can bring the smoke here.

This 23rd air quality alert day is a record for Minnesota.

The previous record was 21 two years ago and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency meteorologists say it’s a trend getting worse because of climate change.

"We’re having more fires and the fires that occur tend to occur for a long period of time, cover a large area, and generate a ton of smoke," Taraldsen said.

For the record, Chicago and Milwaukee have it worse Tuesday.

And back in Rogers, the crew isn’t panting because of air quality.

"Half these guys smoke vapes anyway, you know?" Jordan’s joked. "They can’t breathe as it is."

Even with climate change, we’re not guaranteed to always have bad air summers.

There were none last year, but meteorologists say that’s probably the exception not the rule these days.