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MPCA meteorologists forecast air quality in response to drought and wildfire predictions for summer 2022 in Minnesota

 

April 27, 2022

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) today released air quality predictions for this upcoming summer. Minnesota experienced an unprecedented number of air quality alerts for unhealthy air conditions in 2021, which were the most severe, widespread, and longest lasting on record, reaching levels that were dangerous for everyone.

Air quality is categorized by color, ranging from green indicating good air quality to maroon for dangerous air quality (see table below). At its peak during the summer of 2021, the daily Air Quality Index (AQI) reached the purple category twice (very unhealthy for everyone) and several sites experienced multiple hours in the maroon (hazardous) category. Much of this was caused by Canadian wildfires.

MPCA meteorologists do not expect anything near last year's conditions during 2022. They predict the following outlook for ozone and smoke/wildfires in Minnesota this year:

Ozone

Ozone will likely cause a few days of AQI in the orange category (unhealthy for sensitive groups) this summer. Above normal temperatures, less rain, and less cloud coverage are the main contributing factors according to national modeling. The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center forecasts:

• Spring temperatures (April-June) near or above normal.

• Summer temperatures (June-August) warmer than average.

• Some areas of continued moderate drought in parts of northern Minnesota and abnormally dry conditions in northeastern and eastern Minnesota.

Smoke/Wildfires

Ongoing drought conditions are expected to continue this summer in southern Canada, according to the Meteorological Service of Canada. This will trigger above-normal fire activity, which remains the greatest concern for Minnesota since it could potentially send smoke to the state, similar to last year. Other predictions include:

• A continued multi-year drought in the western U.S. expected to impact AQIs across the country.

• Wetter than average conditions in northern Minnesota December-February combined with improved soil moisture, potentially reducing fire activity in Minnesota.

• Despite wetter conditions, long-term precipitation deficits still present in northern Minnesota, causing variability in depending on weekly drought forecasts.

About AQI and MPCA forecast information

Air quality is reported on a color scale called the Air Quality Index (AQI). When daily average fine-particle levels reach the orange category, sensitive groups such as children, older adults, and those with respiratory conditions may feel the effects. Learn more on the MPCA's Wildfire smoke webpage.

The MPCA posts real-time information and daily forecasts on its current air quality page. Residents may also receive air quality alerts by downloading the Minnesota Air mobile app and follow the MPCA's Facebook and Twitter accounts to learn more about how air quality affects health. The Air We Breathe report summarizes air quality.

About the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is a state agency committed to ensuring that every Minnesotan has healthy air, sustainable lands, clean water, and a better climate.

 

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