Last Monday, a plume of transnational smoke caused Minneapolis's air quality to be worse than that in Beijing, Fox News reported Smoke in Minnesota sky coming from Saskatchewan wildfires:
Smoke from wildfires in central Saskatchewan is being carried southeast in the mid-levels of the atmosphere, and eventually mixing down to ground level here in Minnesota where we see and feel the effects with poor air quality, limited visibility and a smoky smell to the air we breathe. . . .
Monday evening, the air quality index for the Twin Cities was at 187, with fine particle pollution reaching a level considered unhealthy for everyone. By comparison, Beijing had an AQI of 158 on Monday.
An air quality health alert covers the entire state of Minnesota, including the Twin Cities area. The smoke band should move out of the state during the next 12 hours, but smoke may return Tuesday afternoon.
While air quality briefly improved following rain showers on Sunday and Monday, heavy smoke returned to Minnesota behind the storm system. As of 9 a.m. Monday, air quality across the northern two-thirds of Minnesota had reached unhealthy levels. . . .
Bluestem snapped the picture at the top of this post at our editor's garden in Wang Township, named after a place in Norway, however Chinese it might have looked on Monday. The air smelled like a cross between wood smoke and a tire fire.
What contributed to the forest fires in our neighbor to the north? Motherboard reports in Wildfires Threaten an Expanse of Northern Canada the Size of Texas:
It's been more than twenty years since the Northwest Territories, one of Canada’s northernmost remote jurisdictions comprising parts of the North Pole, experienced extreme drought conditions of the magnitude it's currently enduring. That extreme drought has fueled wildfires now affecting much of the NWT, a territory almost twice the size of Texas. . . .
Officials told the CBC some of the fires—at least 13—started because of human causes, such as people tossing cigarette butts or campers setting campfires in places where there were fire bans. In addition, the continuous burning is no doubt due to lightning striking the hot and dry forests of the NWT, which has been desperate for rain since the spring melt.
There's another factor at play, as well: the climate. Record droughts in the NWT will become more common as the region warms. In a 2008 government report on climate change, researchers outlined the several observable changes to the vast forests of the territory. . . .
The Canadian government has been careful not to blame increasing forest fires solely on climate change. In an online report by Natural Resources Canada on climate change and fire, the department cites things likes "changes in land use, vegetation composition, firefighting (meaning suppression) efforts" and something they call "climate variability" as factors influencing wildfires. According to the report, in the last half of the 20th century forest fires have steadily increased in the northern regions of Canada, while those in southern regions have decreased.
Even so, the Canadian government predicts climate change in the twenty-first century will most certainly bring frequent fires in many boreal forests, bringing with it environmental and economic consequences to boot. . . .
While that doesn't sound like it will help make The Good Life in Minnesota very pleasant, KSMP Fox 9's report looked on the bright side, noting "The silver lining is magnificent sunsets!"
That's all very pretty, but Bluestem recalled a story from Asian media that suggests that the United States could gain an economic advantage from air pollution. In December 2013, Chris Luo at the South China Morning Post reported in Smog? It bolsters military defence, says Chinese nationalist newspaper:
A nationalist newspaper has tried to put a positive spin on China’s smog, claiming it is conducive to the country's military defence strategy. Smog, it argued, could thwart missile attacks and hamper hostile reconnaissance.
Smog may affect people’s health and daily lives … but on the battlefield, it can serve as a defensive advantage in military operations,” said an article on the website of Global Times, a nationalist newspaper affiliated to the Communist Party’s mouthpiece the People’s Daily.
Missile guidance that relies on human sight, infrared rays and lasers could be affected by smog in varing degrees, the article said. It explained that tiny particles in the air contributing to air pollution could hinder missile guidance systems.
The article said that during the Kosovo war, soldiers of the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia used smoke from burning tyres to hamper Nato air strikes. The smoke reduced visibility, hindering reconnaissance efforts, the article said.
Photographic reconnaissance equipment employed by satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles and reconnaissance vehicles would be rendered useless by smog it added.
The article also said that during the first Gulf war, sand storms reduced the identification distances of thermal imaging equipment on US tanks from 2,500 metres to 800 metres, while optical detection of Iraqi tanks was reduced to almost nil. . . .
Bluestem finds this story to be very heartening on two fronts. First, with Canada forest fire air quality, the United States could spend a lot less on the military-industrial complex and invest that money into emergency medical centers for low income people with asthma.
Second, the smog would not only protect Americans from foreign military spying, but from reconnaissance efforts by local enforcement agencies. Just imagine how much work the Minnesota legislature could get done on transportation and bonding bills if the endless hearings about license plate readers, fusion centers and other such malarky went the way of clean air, clean water and the horse and buggy.
Climate change is the new good life in Minnesota.
Photo: Air quality in rural Renville County on Monday.
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