Texas Tech atmospheric scientist discusses air quality after Canadian wildfires

Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 5:03 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - As wildfires continue to burn across Canada, the drop in air quality in the northeast part of the country is affecting millions.

An orange haze is in the air over much of the northeast United States, grounding flights, halting outdoor events, with cities urging people to stay indoors. Karin Ardon-Dryer, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech, says that is for good reason.

“The biggest problem with smoke particles is the particles are very small, which makes them very easy to penetrate our lungs,” Ardon-Dryer said.

Ardon-Dryer has been following the effects of those particles closely; she says she does not foresee the air quality in these regions improving any time soon.

“Unfortunately, there are fires, and we are just in June, so those places might burn for the rest of the summer, so I do not expect that it is going to get any better,” Ardon-Dryer said.

Ardon-Dryer says the wind patterns are pushing the smoke south and then off to the east. As crews battle the blaze, another plume of smoke is expected to reach the northeast soon.

“The fact that it is a stable system, an ideological system, that is going to mean the smoke will definitely get to those areas in the next few days,” said Ardon-Dryer.

The heavy air pollution has many wearing masks again. Ardon-Dryer recommends checking the air quality first, if you plan on visiting the northeast any time soon, especially if you have pre-existing respiratory conditions.

“You can check in advance the air quality where you are going to be. Ask yourself, can I change my trip? Sometimes you can’t really do that, but you can do indoor activities for those days the air quality is not so good instead of being outside,” Ardon-Dryer said.

Ardon-Dryer says that as long as the fires continue to burn in Canada, wind could direct that smoke further into parts of the lower 48 states.