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MPCA greatly expands air quality monitoring

By Paul Walsh

Minneapolis Star Tribune

In time for the heat and humidity that come with summer, Minnesota is significantly expanding its monitoring of air quality to cover 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 widened monitoring also now includes specific forecasts for the north and south suburbs of the Twin Cities.

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.

For the latest AQI forecasts, visit: https://www.pca.state.mn.us/air/current-air-quality.