FARGO — Smoke from large wildfires in California, Washington and Oregon is being carried by winds high above the ground to areas as far away as the Midwest, though for now the smoke is not affecting air quality in the region, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.
That could change by midweek, according to Alexandra Kent, a weather service meteorologist who said Monday, Sept. 14, that a low-pressure system close to the ground could move into the area in the coming days.
That low pressure could draw air from high up in the atmosphere closer to the ground, bringing smoke with it, according to Kent, who said the main impact of wildfire smoke in the Dakotas and northern Minnesota is a hazy sky.
"As of right now, we are not seeing any mixing from the upper (atmosphere) levels down to the surface, which would bring down that smoke," Kent said, adding that "since we're not seeing that, we're actually just only seeing the optical effects — such as the hazy skies, the bright orange sunsets and sunrises."
Kent said there is the possibility over the next few days that upper and lower air will start to mix, potentially degrading air quality.
"We're unsure of that right now. So, we'll just have to monitor that," Kent said.
While the haze caused by Western wildfires can obscure the sun, it is still not a good idea to stare at the sun directly for any length of time, as dangerous rays can make their way through the smoke, Kent said.
If smoke does begin to affect air quality, the National Weather Service will issue alerts letting people know, she added.
CNN reported Monday that so far in 2020, wildfires in California have burned more than 3.2 million acres of land — an area almost the size of Connecticut.
Fires in California and elsewhere have left dozens dead and thousands of structures destroyed, according to the report.