DES MOINES, Iowa — If you’ve noticed what appears to be a thin layer of clouds or haze in the sky, that’s not cloud cover — it’s smoke.
Smoke can be seen from space on weather satellites. What looks like a thin layer of clouds extending from Alberta, Canada has traveled down to the Midwest, extending as far southeast as the Great Lakes region.
Extensive wildfires have been raging in parts of Canada. The heat from the fires rises, taking the smoke with it. As a result, that smoke ends up in the upper atmosphere.
Once the smoke is high up in the atmosphere, it moves based on the position of the jet stream. The jet stream is a river of air that divides cold, arctic air in the north from warm, tropical air in the south. The jet stream is usually 30,000 to 40,000 feet high, where planes fly.
Currently, the jet stream is directing air from Alberta down toward North Dakota and into southern Minnesota and Iowa. That’s causing the smoky skies overhead.
Eventually, the jet stream’s pattern will change as a front moves through late Thursday into Friday. The main path of the jet stream will shift north, taking the smoke with it.
Smoke is expected to persist through Wednesday and for part of Thursday. As a cold front moves through Thursday night into Friday, it should clear us out and bring in clearer skies.
Fortunately, the smoke should stay elevated, keeping our air quality fairly good. Locations closer to the fires (even in places like western North Dakota), will likely see worse conditions, where the smoke is closer to the ground.
Other than the smoke and haze, skies will be mostly clear, with temperatures in the upper 70s to low 80s. A cold front builds in late Thursday, bringing clouds and a few showers Thursday night into early Friday.