The details behind the Canadian wildfire smoke in Alabama’s sky

The sky was very hazy, gray-ish and milky on Monday
The latest go-around with the smoke has affected states that haven’t really seen it yet this year.
Published: Jul. 18, 2023 at 11:06 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - It has been a hot topic in the U.S. multiple times so far in 2023. At times it has taken over social media and amazed people across the world. I’m talking about Canadian wildfire smoke.

The latest go-around with the smoke has affected states that haven’t really seen it yet this year. That includes us in Alabama, in addition to neighboring Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

It’s not “rare” for Canadian wildfire smoke to make it this far south. It is a bit unusual though given how far away we are from Canada. The smoke traveled well over 1,000 miles from its sources to get to Central Alabama.

Smoke from wildfires can have many impacts, including on the human body.
Smoke from wildfires can have many impacts, including on the human body.(WSFA 12 News)

Fortunately it won’t be staying here for long. It arrived Sunday night and will be exiting late Wednesday. While not as thick and impactful as it has been up north, the smoke has caused the sky to be hazy, milky and gray in appearance across much of Alabama over the last two days.

It has also caused air quality to enter the orange and red categories depending on where you reside in the state. Orange represents the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” category and red represents “Unhealthy” for everyone. That red category is pretty unusual here in Alabama.

When the air quality reaches those categories it’s important to consider limiting time spent outdoors. That’s especially true if you suffer from asthma, allergies or any other ailments that have similar effects. Even the healthiest of people can struggle when the air quality rises into that red “Unhealthy” category.

If wildfire smoke is thick and prevalent enough it can affect our eyes, nose, throat, lungs, and even our heart. The effects the smoke has on us are exacerbated if the smoke is present in the lower levels of the atmosphere as opposed to just aloft.

For Alabama the smoke has mostly been elevated well up in the atmosphere. Some of it is located in the lower levels of the atmosphere, which is why our air quality has suffered and the smell of smoke has been present at times in some spots.

All Canadian wildfires as of July 18, 2023.
All Canadian wildfires as of July 18, 2023.(Natural Resources Canada)

The wildfires up in Canada have been sending smoke across North America for several months now. There are about 880 active wildfires across Canada as of this writing, including at least 580 that are considered “out of control.”

It has already been the worst year for wildfires in Canada in at least 40 years. The acreage burned through mid-July is a jaw-dropping 24 million. That number is just going to continue climbing as conditions continue to support wildfire development and growth.

So it’s certainly plausible to assume additional waves of wildfire smoke will pay a visit to us here in Alabama. It’s hard to predict wildfire smoke plume movement more than a few days ahead of time, so be sure to continue checking back for more on future smoke plumes making their way into the Deep South.

Not reading this story on the WSFA News App? Get news alerts FASTER and FREE in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store!