Texas wildfire smoke heading for Minnesota Thursday

Smoke plume likely to drift over the state; smoky smell possible on the ground

NOAA HRRR near surface smoke
NOAA HRRR near-surface smoke forecast through 6 p.m. Thursday.
NOAA via pivotal weather

Get ready for the first smoke event of 2024, Minnesota. A plume of wildfire smoke from the massive Texas wildfires is likely to drift northeast over Minnesota on Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s High-Resolution Rapid Refresh near-surface smoke loop (see the map above) forecasts the plume to race northeast into Minnesota on strong southwesterly winds Thursday.

The blazes in Texas have scorched more than 500,000 acres.

Reports indicate hundreds of homes may have burned in small towns in the Texas Panhandle region.

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Air quality forecasts for Minnesota so far suggest most of the smoke will be aloft on Thursday. The latest air quality forecast for Thursday is green, indicating good air quality statewide.

Air quality forecast for Minnesota
Air quality forecast for Minnesota Thursday.
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

I reached out to Matt Tarldsen who is an air quality meteorologist with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. I asked him about the inbound smoke plume. For now, there are still leaning toward a green air quality forecast for Thursday. But that could change depending on the intensity of the smoke plume as it approaches Minnesota.

Thanks Paul:

Yeah the situation in Texas yesterday was really awful to watch. It got me thinking about how we would respond if something like that happened here. Lots of air quality impacts down that way.

The team was just talking about that model run. We kept the green for now, mainly because the HRRR has been having issues with initialization of the smoke plume. It uses the radiative power calculations from satellite and last night with the cold front passage there were thick clouds that obscured some of the heat signature. Overnight it seemed to catch up again, but now it has a bit more smoke than what the monitors/Purple Air have. There is one sensor out by Colby Kansas that has been running very high. Without knowing the QC of the site it is hard to say if that is poor citing or if it is picking up on the remnants of that plume.

Consensus was that the concentrations were likely to settle some with additional model runs now that it has a relatively unobscured view of the smoke plume. There was also some doubt about how far north the warm air advection was going to move things. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had to do an early morning update – we’re watching that closely!


It remains to be seen if our persistent southerly flow over the next few days will bring more of the Texas wildfire smoke down to the surface here in Minnesota.

Stay tuned.