Air Quality Alert Wednesday, June 28, 2023

finger lakes weather forecast air quality alert wednesday june 28 2023
Air Quality Index values between 101-150 are expected across the Finger Lakes tomorrow, making the air Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.

Air Quality Alert

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) has issued an Air Quality Alert for the entire Finger Lakes region for Wednesday, June 28, 2023.

Immediately, counties began alerting the public and offering free masks. These are good and noble causes, but I felt the need to clarify the forecast a bit more in an effort to hopefully reduce some anxiety. Here are a few key points:

  1. UPDATE- THURSDAY MORNING, JUNE 29: Air quality has continued to gradually deteriorate across the region and is now in the red UNHEALTHY category throughout the area. Please be sure to check my latest blog posts for updated information.
  2. Every year, the NYS DEC issues several Air Quality Alerts for our region. Usually, these are for Ozone, whereas this alert, and the others earlier this month, are for fine particulate matter. Both pollutants use the same Air Quality Index scale (AQI), which runs from 0-500. Air Quality Alerts are automatically triggered for forecast AQI values over 100, which is at a minimum the Orange “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” rating.
  3. Public awareness and sensitivity to air quality is extremely heightened in the wake of the wildfire smoke on June 7th which pushed AQI values over 400 (Hazardous) in our region. What used to be a routine occurrence several times a year now is an anxiety-triggering, public action event. I applaud the intention of our governments to provide the means for those who are at risk to stay safe, and for alerting the public to unhealthy situations.
  4. However, I want to emphasize the context of the forecast so that most of the population can go about their daily lives without undue anxiety. 
    example AQI forecast graphic from
    An example forecast from for tomorrow, this for Groton, NY, showing a projected AQI of 105 and guidance for staying safe. Click to enlarge.
  5. AQI values over the Finger Lakes are expected to remain in the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” that we typically see several times a year. The official guidance from the AQI key for outdoor activity when in the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” for those not in a sensitive group is: “Enjoy your outdoor activities.”
  6. The volume of near-surface and total atmospheric wildfire smoke shown on the models for Wednesday is 10-40 times less than it was on June 7th. In raw terms, near-surface wildfire smoke is measured in micrograms per cubic meter of air. On June 7th, those values were in excess of 150. Wednesday’s modeled values are 5-15. Wednesday should be nothing like June 7th.
  7. No one should feel bad or guilty for protecting their health, and if they choose to remain inside, their choice to do so should be respected. My intention here is only to bring additional information and clarity to the situation so you can make fact-based decisions for yourself, not fear-based reactions.
  8. Regardless of any forecast (for AQI or anything), the key to staying safe is to continually monitor the actual conditions. I find the interactive map at to be the most useful and most accurate for reporting current AQI values, even over other data displays from I have had that map up on my computer and on my phone constantly since June 7th and will be refreshing it frequently tomorrow. I highly recommend you do the same and act accordingly to the actual conditions.
  9. Lastly, the map I provide at the top of this post is an approximation of the official NYS DEC forecast as of 5 PM Tuesday. It is only an approximation because I could not find a source to download the data and had to hand-draw it onto a map as best as I could. Here is another interactive map that displays forecast AQI zones.
Follow Meteorologist Drew Montreuil:
Meteorologist Drew Montreuil has been forecasting the weather in the Finger Lakes region since 2006 and has degrees in meteorology from SUNY Oswego (B.S. with Honors) and Cornell (M.S.). Drew and his wife have four young boys. When not working or playing with the boys, he is probably out for a run through the countryside.

12 Responses

  1. FrDmitry

    On the NYS DEC map, the dark burgundy – HAZARDOUS (301-500) designation over GINNA Nuclear Plant in Wayne County: Is that real or predictive?
    …or is it an error?

    • Meteorologist Drew Montreuil

      Do you have a link to the map you are looking at? I’m not seeing any Hazardous designations on the ones I am seeing.

  2. Kris Kendall

    Thank you for clarifying and for not being a panic-driving newsman. I was wondering why the alert was out when there was no smoke; I thought the the pollen count was high or something. The alerts should be more specific as many people might change their plans to visit the area if they see alerts and picture a smoky haze.

  3. Monica

    Thank you. June 7 was indeed traumatic. One more clarification might be helpful, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone are not the same. PM2.5 is more dangerous and harmful to the lungs than ozone. This is why people who already have health issues should wear a N95 mask outside.

    • Meteorologist Drew Montreuil

      You are certainly correct that Ozone and PM 2.5 are not the same and have different impacts on the body. Given equal concentrations, PM 2.5 is far more hazardous.

      However, it is my understanding that AQI is a normalizing scale to make it easy to interpret the health risks of either pollutant. An AQI of 200 would seem to be equally hazardous for Ozone as PM 2.5, though it takes much less PM 2.5 to reach that level… similar to how it would take many feathers (ozone) to reach 200 lbs (AQI) and much less lead (PM 2.5) to reach the same threshold.

      Given the other variables at play (body condition, pre-existing conditions, etc.), there is never going to be a one-size fits all scale to address these issues, but I’ve found AQI to do as good a job clarifying the complexity as can be expected.

  4. John

    Fantastic and always thorough weather reporting.. Thanks for your gift to us all.

  5. jhholland

    So– what *was* the AQI number for July 7 in the Finger Lakes area? Thanks!

    • Meteorologist Drew Montreuil

      Over 400 (see bullet point #2)

  6. David

    Now what we need is a deer fly alert. I seem to be their favorite target to torment from late June all through July, making me want to pause my early morning walks when they buzz around my head. I hate wearing hats!

  7. Josseline Alvarado

    Drew those fires had chemicals in them. That caused the orange and people’s skin to sting. I can’t with all of this but thank you for letting us know to get ready.

  8. Moira Scheuring

    Thank you for clarifying what’s going on. I’d assumed that today’s alert was because of Canadian wildfires although nothing smelled smokey.

  9. Lori Welsh

    That was extremely enlightening and comforting. Thank you!