How long will wildfire smoke from Canada linger in Upstate NY this time?

Smoke returns to Upstate New York skies

This map shows expected concentrations of small particles from Canadian wildfires smoke at 1 p.m. today. An air quality alert has been issued for all of New York state.

Syracuse, N.Y. -- Smoke from wildfires in Canada has once again drifted into Upstate New York, creating a grayish haze and prompting an air quality alert.

Air quality has already reached the “unhealthy” range in Rochester, and that is expected to spread today across Upstate New York, meaning everyone should limit strenuous activity outdoors.

The smoke won’t linger long, however.

“It’s really just today and tomorrow that are going to be the two trouble days,” said Adam Douty, a meteorologist with Accuweather forecasting company. “There’s a fairly weak cold front moving through Tuesday, and once that front gets through by Wednesday, we should see things clear out quite significantly.”

The smoke affecting us today is streaming from fires in British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province. Smoke pushed across the continent is diluted by the time it reaches Upstate New York, so we’re unlikely to see the “hazardous” air quality of early June, when the smoke was carried from nearby Quebec.

The state Department of Health says that when the air is in the “unhealthy” range, “some members of the general public may experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.”

The tiny particles from smoke -- a tenth the width of a human hair -- can penetrate the lungs and bloodstream. In people with cardiac and respiratory problems, high levels of those particles can aggravate breathing problems and increase the risk of stroke, said Alistar Hayden, a public health professor at Cornell University.

High temperatures today, in the mid to upper 80s, could increase the harmful effects of smoke.

“We know that smoke is damaging to people’s health and we know that high heat is damaging to people’s health,” Hayden said. “And there’s growing research that shows that when both of them happen together, then it’s actually even worse than either of them individually.”

Air quality alert for Upstate New York

Upstate New York is under an air quality alert today as fine particles from Canadian wildfire drift in. Red indicates unhealthy air for everyone; orange indicates unhealthy air for people with heart and lung conditions.

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