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Millions impacted by wildfire smoke; Florida escapes significant air quality issues

June 8, 2023

The wildfire season in Canada is off to a historic start as millions of acres scorch, sending air quality to unhealthy levels from New England to the Carolinas.

Many of the nation's largest population centers have been under air quality alerts since Wednesday as plumes of thick wildfire smoke shift south. There are seven entire states covered in air quality alerts: Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Portions of seven other states feature air quality alerts linked to the ongoing wildfires: Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia. The ongoing wildfires in Canada resulted in apocalyptic images of New York City that many likely saw on the news or while scrolling social media Wednesday. The orange-hued images were reminders that our atmosphere is a fluid entity, and that fact is part of the reason why air quality in Florida is not expected to be impacted by wildfire smoke.

The jet stream is a narrow ribbon of fast-moving air in the mid- and upper-levels that separate air masses. Jet streams also act as a guide for areas of high and low pressure. It is this characteristic of jet streams that means air quality in Florida is not likely to be impacted by the ongoing surges of wildfire smoke. Upper-air analysis Thursday afternoon depicts the fast-moving jet stream diving out of Canada into the Midwest and south and east toward the Carolinas. This makes it difficult for the heavier particulates in wildfire smoke to make it as far south as Florida. Lighter particulates have been lofted as far south as the Florida Panhandle and North Florida, which are likely to make for more vibrant sunrises and sunsets through Friday. While residents may notice a slight tinge of haze in the sky over the coming days, especially across the Panhandle, air quality is not forecast to be significantly impacted. Thursday and Friday feature air quality generally in the moderate range in the Panhandle and North Florida, which is considered acceptable for most of the population. The only group that may experience some irritation Thursday into Friday are residents with respiratory sensitivities.

The wildfire season in Canada runs from May through October.

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Sources include nearest National Weather Service office, National Hurricane Center, and the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network (@FloridaStorms).
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