ROCKFORD (WREX) — If you walked out the door today, you may notice a small layer of cloud cover in the sky. This layer of higher level cloud cover is actually haze caused by smoke coming from Canadian Wildfires occurring in Southern Manitoba.
A high pressure system sits over the Great Lakes region and is driving winds out of the northeast. The high pressure is causing southerly flow directly out southern Manitoba from the area of wildfires. Smoke lifted from the wildfires is drifting southward into the United States causing the haze. Haze is primarily impacting the Great Lakes region, but our high pressure is expansive enough that powerful lower level winds have brought smoke into our region as well.
The biggest impact today will be the decrease in the air quality index (AQI) in the region. The AQI tells us how clean or polluted the air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. A majority of the Midwest is under a Moderate Risk (Yellow Risk). This means air quality is acceptable for most. However, some pollutants may cause a moderate health concern for a few people. Mainly those who are unusually sensitive to air pollution. However, according to AirNow.gov as of 4 PM, the Rockford region is under the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups category (Orange Risk). An Orange Risk area indicates that members of sensitive groups may experience health effects.
According to the Province of Manitoba Wildfire Program, there a several wildfires that have been burning in southern Manitoba. The main cause of wildfires in the area are caused due to lightning. Locally drier conditions have increased the chance for fires starting after a forest lightning strike. Most of these wildfires are being contained but a few are still out of control until further notice.
As the weather pattern shifts to southeasterly flow starting Tuesday night, air quality and haze should improve greatly for the entire region.