Just in time for summer's heat and humidity, Minnesota is expanding its air-quality monitoring across the state.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) said its meteorologists are now forecasting air quality conditions beyond the state's two biggest population areas — the Twin Cities and Rochester areas — to include 17 locations overall.
The monitoring locations are: Minneapolis-St. Paul, north metro suburbs, south metro suburbs, Brainerd, Detroit Lakes, Duluth, Ely, Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, Marshall, Mille Lacs, Moorhead, Red Lake, Rochester, St. Cloud, Virginia, and Winona.
"This means people who may be sensitive to elevated levels of air pollution — including children, the elderly, and those with respiratory problems — can be better prepared to protect their health when conditions are trending toward poor air quality," the MPCA said in a statement announcing the expansion.
The forecasts feed the air quality index, familiar to the public as the AQI, which is now looking ahead three days and is expressed in colors: green, healthy for all; yellow, moderate; orange, unhealthy for sensitive groups; red, unhealthy for all.
Warmer and muggier weather, at times combined with low wind speeds, can make for less than ideal air quality conditions in the summer months. On occasion, large forest fires from as far away as Canada also contribute to bringing down air quality.
Also, in order to better get the word out to the public about any air-quality concerns, the MPCA said the six National Weather Service offices that serve Minnesota will include air quality alerts in their warnings, watches and advisories.