Canadian Wildfire Smoke Seen Across the US

June 2, 2023

NOAA’s National Air Quality Forecast Capability (NAQFC) performed well in predicting air quality impacts of Canadian wildfires across the US. A busy wildfire season for Canada has brought smoke and other fire emissions to the US, covering a large portion of the nation. The Canadian wildfires affected states along the East coast from Maine to Washington DC, with New Jersey issuing a code orange alert for May 31. 

As shown in the NAQFC forecast animation, wildfire emissions traveled over the Great Plains and Midwest, before lingering on the East Coast (in light blue). Smoke and other emissions (nitrogen oxides and organic compounds) from wildfires can decrease downwind air quality through increased ozone and airborne particle concentrations. 

The fires began much earlier in May, in Alberta, Canada. Since then, record breaking heat and below average rainfall in Western Canada contributed to an upsurge that continued throughout the month. 

The NAQFC was initially created by NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory and implemented by the National Weather Service to provide operational air quality forecast guidance to local and state agencies as well as to the general public across the United States. Operational predictions include ozone, fine particulate matter (PM2.5), smoke nationwide, and dust over the continental US. ARL’s current research efforts are focused on further improving NAQFC’s capability to forecast wildfire air quality impacts, which are expected to increase in coming years.