SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – You could see and smell it much of this past week.

We’re talking Canadian Wildfire smoke. It was as thick as many could remember ever occurring in our area.

For much of May, the smoke was courtesy of wildfires primarily in Western Canada.

However, the main source of this past week’s smoke is from wildfires in the province of Quebec, only about 400-500 miles north of Syracuse.

More than 144 wildfires were burning in Quebec as of Saturday morning. Officials have evacuated more than 13,000 people across Northern Quebec where the wildfires are most intense.

The Air Quality Index, or AQI, skyrocketed on Wednesday to a hazardous level for everyone regardless of overall health conditions in CNY. The AQI is forecast to be below 100 in the good to moderate range right through Sunday and at least the middle part of the upcoming week thankfully!

Why is this happening?

These plumes of smoke are being transported south into the Great Lakes, New York State and Northeast compliments of a persistent north-northwest flow at many levels of the atmosphere.

An “Omega Block” has kept a persistent northeast flow of air between high in the Plains and low pressure over the Northeast, downwind of where the wildfires in Quebec are.

The lack of snow this past winter and very dry spring across Canada combined with abnormally dry and hot conditions recently as temperatures soared into the 80s and 90s producing unprecedented wildfires during the late spring/early summer season.

Smoke has cleared for the most part now, but…

Thanks to the weakening of the winds and a wind shift the main north-northwest smoky flow was shut off and pushed to the south and west of CNY Thursday into Friday. Thankfully, another northwest wind isn’t forecast for CNY until at least mid to late next week. Hopefully by then more of the wildfires in Quebec are under control and we won’t have to deal hazardous air quality again!

The thick smoke we saw from the wildfires this past week was much lower in the atmosphere than the smoke was from the wildfire smoke we saw from the Alberta, Canada wildfires back in May. That’s why it was a lot hazier/smokier, smelly and more hazardous for anyone exerting themselves, especially those that have respiratory issues, elderly, and very young.

“Sun just prior to setting in smoke and haze from Canadian wildfires” Photo from Thomas Catanesye from Bridgeport.
Thick smoky haze reduces visibility to less than 1 mile at times across Syracuse Wednesday morning, and produces an orangish/yellowish hue!

“Thick wildfire smoke over Onondaga Hill”, Tuesday morning June 6, photo from Cindy Christopher.