UPDATED: Air quality returns to moderate levels in Northeast Michigan

News photo by Steve Schulwitz A water tower in Alpena stands on the shore of the Thunder Bay River in this November 2022 News file photo.

ALPENA — While Northeast Michigan was predicted to have higher concentrations of air pollution Friday because of winds carrying smoke and other particles from Canadian wildfires, the haze didn’t impact the area much at all, data shows.

According to satellite data from IQAir — a company that measures air quality in real time — the air quality in Alpena was at a moderate level on Friday. Forecasts show that the next five days will also have moderate air quality in the Alpena area.

That comes after unhealthy air conditions earlier in the week which were not safe for people who may be sensitive to pollutants. Amid extremely dry conditions throughout Michigan, a smoky haze blanketed Alpena on Wednesday and Alpena’s air quality level was at 112 on IQAir’s air quality index on Wednesday night, a number considered unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Alpena’s AQI number was 72 on Friday night, falling in the moderate range — the second lowest level on the index.

Within the past week, Canada and much of the Midwest, including Michigan, has experienced dry weather along with unsafe air quality due to the wildfires.

Dan Cornish, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said that, for northern Michigan, this much smoke is uncommon.

“We’re no strangers to smoke coming from some bonfires that people have around here,” Cornish said. “We know how it can get a little bit harder to see with those fires. That’s all pretty typical. What’s different this time around is that these fires are big and so close to the Great Lakes. On top of that, strong winds are carrying some of that smoke down to us.”

Cornish said those fires stem from Ontario and Quebec and that the smoke is starting to slowly go away.

Air quality may be at an adequate level for breathing, but IQAir satellites estimate the concentration of unhealthy particles in the air is still well above World Health Organization guideline values. According to the WHO, the standard air quality should be one cubic meter of air that contains five micrograms of pollutants.

As of Friday afternoon, Alpena was estimated to be at 21 micrograms of pollutants, four times the amount.

For those who are sensitive to air pollutants, Cornish recommends limiting exercise or any activities outdoors.

As of Friday night, several Michigan cities were still ranked among the nation’s most polluted cities on the AQI due to the wildfires, including Dearborn Heights, River Rouge, Adrian, and Sterling Heights.


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