Wildfire smoke returns to the Northland over the next few days; An early look at how much rain we could get late this week

We had a nice break from wildfire smoke and poor air quality in the Northland over the last few days, but unfortunately more wildfire smoke is returning to the Northland, and it will stick around over the next few days. A lot of this smoke will remain aloft leading to hazy/milky looking skies, thus air quality shouldn’t be much of an issue since this smoke is not forecast to make it down to the surface unlike previous smoke events we’ve seen on occasion over the last few weeks.

Here is the 18z HRRR model smoke forecast through 1 PM Wednesday, August 18, 2021.

Higher concentrations of smoke aloft show up in orange, red and purple colors on the animation below.

Poor air quality is expected near and downwind of the Greenwood fire over inland portions of Lake County in northeast Minnesota (orange area on map). The affected area includes Stony River Township and Fall Lake Township. Its possible will see this Air Quality Alert extended past Noon Tuesday.


Our current pattern will be slow to break down this week, but it will do so later this week as that trough now over western Canada digs further south/east over the next few days, but for now the Northland will be controlled by an upper level ridge.

Under the aforementioned ridge is where the most intense heat is located with widespread temperatures in the upper 90s and low 100s this afternoon across portions of the Northern Rockies and Northern Plains, that type of heat won’t be making it into the Northland this week, but will still be plenty warm with highs in the 80s to low 90s through Friday.

  • 13 days so far this year at or above 90 at International Falls, normal number of 90 degree days is 4, the record is 18 days set in 1921.
  • 45 days at or above 80 so far this year at Duluth, Minnesota, normal number of 80 degree days is 27, the record is 53 days set in 1988.

A look at the 500mb forecast through 1 AM Thursday, August 19, 2021.

The area outlined in black will eventually be the system that brings some rain to northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin, timing of it looks to be from Friday into early Saturday.

Last time a quarter inch or more of rain fell

Duluth, MN: August 5

Hibbing, MN: August 5

Ashland, WI: July 26

Brainerd, MN: July 24

International Falls, MN: July 23

An early look at rainfall totals with the system for late this week shows a chance for a quarter to half inch of rain in much of the Northland, with higher amounts possible in far northwest areas (>0.50″) At the moment it looks like northwest Wisconsin will receive the least amount of rain, with amounts ranging from a trace to a quarter inch.

Highest amounts of rain for late this week appears to be setting up across North Dakota and northwest Minnesota, these areas could see widespread 1″+ totals.


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