Smoky haze from Canadian wildfires lingers over Southern New England

Weather Blog

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ If you’ve looked up at the sky recently, you’ve probably noticed it’s been pretty hazy over the last couple of days.

That’s due to the smoke making its way through the jet stream from wildfires in Canada.

It’s not unusual for Southern New England to see wildfire smoke during the summer months, though it typically stays in the upper levels of the atmosphere.

Why does it seem to have more of an impact than usual?

While the occasional smoky haze isn’t uncommon, it doesn’t always impact the air quality.

Typically, poor air quality is caused by unhealthy levels of ozone. But this time, it’s the smoky air that’s the culprit, prompting an Air Quality Alert to be issued across the region.

Unhealthy air quality levels can cause adverse health effects including throat irritation, coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath. Young children and older adults are particularly susceptible, along with people with respiratory diseases such as asthma.

How does the smoke get to the atmosphere’s surface in the first place?

The atmosphere is a fluid motion, sort of like an ocean with waves.

The air is constantly moving with winds not only in the horizontal direction, but also in the vertical direction. If the winds are strong enough vertically, it can push down some of the air way up in the sky.

Thankfully, most of the smoke will stay in the upper levels of the atmosphere and shouldn’t continue to affect the air quality much longer.

How much longer will the smoke be in the sky?

The smoke will likely linger as long as the wildfires continue to burn, since it follows the jet stream.

Models are currently predicting the smoke will continue to linger at least into Tuesday evening.

What does the smoky air look like?

It typically appears hazy, as though the sky is full of clouds. The main difference, however, is that the sun is usually still shining.

This type of smoky air can also make for some beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

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