Minnesota air quality alerts on the rise this year

An air quality alert has been issued for southern, east-central and northeastern Minnesota until early Thursday due to wildfire smoke from Canada. 

Smoke from wildfires in Ontario and Quebec moved into Minnesota late Monday, and ground-level smoke has persisted through early Tuesday morning. Ground-level smoke is expected to linger across the area. 

There have been a lot of air quality alerts this summer. Tuesday is the 23rd air quality alert in Minnesota this year, marking a record, the MPCA says. The previous record was 21 in 2021. Minnesota usually averages two to three air quality alerts in a season. 

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: "Winds will become southerly on Tuesday afternoon and air quality may improve across northeast Minnesota by Wednesday. However, the smoke currently impacting Wisconsin is expected to recirculate into southern Minnesota, and ground-level smoke is expected to persist across southern and east central Minnesota on Wednesday. A cold front will move across Minnesota on Wednesday afternoon and bring cleaner air from the west. Air quality should improve statewide by midnight on Thursday."

The fine particle levels are expected to reach the "orange air quality index" category, which is a level considered unhealthy for sensitive groups across southern, east-central and northeastern Minnesota. This includes the Twin Cities metro, Albert Lea, Marshall, Worthington, Rochester, Hinckley, Winona, Mankato, Two Harbors, Hibbing, Ely, Duluth, and the tribal nations of Upper Sioux, Prairie Island, Mille Lacs, Grand Portage and Fond du Lac. 

Those in sensitive groups should limit time outside.