Wildfire smoke sifts into Ontario, Quebec, brings hazardous air quality

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Wildfire activity has significantly grown in the last couple of weeks across northern Quebec. As a result, significant wildfire smoke is impacting many communities in southern Quebec, Ontario, and many parts of the U.S.

While a storm risk lies ahead for parts of Ontario and Quebec Tuesday, any precipitation that does fall will miss the areas impacted by fires and that need it most.


As of Monday evening, more than 150 wildfires are currently burning in Quebec and there have been more than 400 fires this year so far for the province – surpassing the 10-year average of 199 blazes in the province by the beginning of June.

Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada Red Cross Fire Appeal 2023
Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada Red Cross Fire Appeal 2023

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Northerly winds and a passing cold front has begun to usher the thick, dense smoke southward. Signs of the smoke were already visible in the Greater Toronto Area and parts of southern Ontario on Sunday.

As surface smoke travels south, poor air quality will become a major concern over these next few days for major cities like Ottawa and Montreal, with even residents in the GTA possibly feeling the impacts. These regions are likely to continue to record some of the worst air quality across North America during the early part of the work week.

Upper-level smoke will be able to travel hundreds of kilometres southward through this week, leading to hazy skies and enhanced sunsets in parts of the United States.

ONQC current smoke
ONQC current smoke

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Widespread special air quality statements are in effect, along with some local smog warnings for western Quebec.

Smoke plumes are forecast to continue to travel south through the start of the week and with that, poor air quality is forecast for parts of southern Ontario and Quebec through the coming days.

A moderate risk is forecast for cities like Ottawa and Toronto through the next couple of days. Vulnerable groups of the population, such as those with lung diseases, should limit their time outdoors.



Forecasters will be closely monitoring the threat for more wildfire ignition over the coming days as a cold front and upper-level low have the potential to develop thunderstorms on Tuesday across parts of the region.

Unfortunately, not much rain is forecast for the northern regions of Quebec where most of the wildfires are burning. The bulk of the precipitation will instead sit along the East Coast where it will feel so close, yet so far.

ONQC precip June 5 2023
ONQC precip June 5 2023

While the storms are forecast to remain non-severe in nature, lightning associated with the thunderstorms and locally gusty winds will be the main concerns for current wildfire activity.

Thumbnail courtesy of Mark Leonard, taken in Centreton, Ont.

For more forecast information and updates for Ontario and Quebec, keep checking back to The Weather Network.