The smoky skies that have swept through Minnesota a few times already this spring are likely to be a regular occurrence all summer, as large wildfires continue to burn in Canada and send smoke south into the U.S.
Matt Taraldsen, a supervisory meteorologist for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said the unusually dry spring has led to conditions where wildfires can thrive.
"What you see right now is likely what you're going to see for the rest of the summer," Taraldsen said.
In recent days the air quality has improved even as it's worsened along the East Coast. Most of Minnesota was under the "good" or "moderate" air quality index ratings on Wednesday.
Several advisories for poor air quality were issued in May in Minnesota due to wildfires in western Canada, but now the smoke is drifting from large fires in Quebec and eastern Canada. Minnesota is receiving better air quality than in much of the northeast United States, which show many counties in the "hazardous" air quality category.
Because some of the wildfires are in remote areas and aren't threatening well-populated places, the government is less likely to prioritize extinguishing them quickly, Taraldsen said.
"There's a lot of fires way up north ... that are just so far away from anything that they are likely to keep burning for a while," he said. "Either of the source regions can impact Minnesota and already have this year. That's likely to continue."
Following a winter dominated by heavy snow, the spring has been unusually dry. Traditionally, impacts of wildfire smoke have only been seen in the late summer, and National Weather Service meteorologist Brent Hewett said it's rare to see these kinds of air quality impacts this early.
The dry conditions are also setting up Minnesota to be in more dangerous territory for wildfires starting locally, he said.
"It looks like we're very quickly approaching drier conditions, and possibly flash drought conditions across much of the state," Hewett said.
Residents can check local air quality reports online at pca.state.mn.us/air-water-land-climate/current-air-quality-conditions. While most people can safely perform outdoor activities in the yellow or "moderate" air quality, Taraldsen said those more sensitive to poor air quality should be more cautious.