MINNEAPOLIS -- Canadian wildfire smoke is blanketing most of the state on Saturday, prompting air quality alerts across Minnesota. And according to the World Air Quality Index, Minneapolis is among the five cities with the worst current air conditions -- that's across the entire globe.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued a code orange air quality alert that was set to expire at 3 p.m. Saturday, affecting the entire state of Minnesota, as well as tribal nations.
However, as of 3:30 p.m., Minneapolis was still showing an AQI above 150. That ranks alongside Doha, Qatar; Lahore, Pakistan; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Kampala, Uganda among the cities worldwide with the unhealthiest air. Air considered unhealthy for all population groups.
Wildfire smoke is carried by transport winds horizontally across Canada and into the Upper Midwest, traveling nearly 1,500 miles. In the coming days, wildfire smoke will continue to be funneled through winds and eventually disperse.
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency meteorologist Matt Taraldsen said the smoke will likely have a burnt plastic smell instead of a wood smoke smell because it's traveling about a thousand miles and being oxidized in the atmosphere.
This marks the 25th day with an air quality alert in the state -- a new record. Wildfire season does not have a hard finish line, so expectations for more wildfire smoke and air quality alerts remain a concern through the summer.
However, this is far from the worst stretch of weather seen in the metro area this summer. On June 14 of this year, the AQI reading in Minneapolis was 243, placing it in the "purple" zone, which is the second-highest tier..
A user of the open-source software development website Github created a calculator that converts a given AQI value into cigarettes. On a normal day, the AQI level is between 0-50. Saturday afternoon's ranking just above 150 is roughly the equivalent of about three cigarettes in a 24 hour period.
The calculator, made by Github user "jasminedevv," based its math on the work of researchers Richard A. Muller and Elizabeth A. Muller, which was first published by Berkeley Earth in 2015. The researchers created their own calculation by looking at the number of cigarettes sold annually in the U.S., the number of people who died annually from smoking in the U.S., and the number of people who died annually in China from hazardous air exposure.
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