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What's a Code Orange Air Quality Alert? Smoke from wildfires causing pollution

Wildfires in Canada have caused a spike in air pollution that's now affecting the Charlotte area.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Smoke from the widespread Canadian wildfires will have an effect on North Carolina with hazy conditions likely across the state this week. 

A Code Orange Air Quality Alert is in effect from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. for Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union counties in the Charlotte metro. A Code Orange is also in effect for the North Carolina mountains due to the smoke funneling into the region. 

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A Code Yellow is normal for summertime, but what exactly is a Code Orange? It has to do with the air quality index for ground-level ozone in the atmosphere. We already know your next question: What exactly is "ground-level ozone?" 

Thankfully, we have Chief Meteorologist Brad Panovich to explain

"Ozone is invisible and odorless. Most people think of stratospheric ozone, which is high in the sky and protects Earth from ultraviolet radiation from the sun. That's the good kind," Panovich said. "The kind we are talking about is near the ground and not good. It forms when emission from cars and factories combines with sunlight through a chemical reaction to create ozone at the ground." 

This type of ozone makes it hard for oxygen to get into your lungs, which is why a Code Orange Air Quality Alert is in place for Tuesday and possibly again Wednesday. 

According to AirNow, a code orange requires ozone levels between 101-150, which means sensitive groups, including people with lung diseases such as asthma and children should limit their physical activity outdoors. If you are outdoors, experts say you should take more frequent breaks and dial back the intensity of your activity.

The Charlotte area will see temperatures in the upper 80s Tuesday. There is a slight chance for storms but this will be isolated to areas south of Charlotte. WCNC Charlotte meteorologist Chris Mulcahy said it will likely be hazy due to smoke in the upper atmosphere. 

"You can see the smoke, you won't smell it, but it will affect our atmosphere," Mulcahy said. 

🌩️ If you like weather, watch Brad Panovich and the WCNC Charlotte Weather Team on their Emmy Award-winning Weather IQ YouTube channel. 🎥  

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